Dave Horton is our in-house Energy Specialist at npower Business Solutions. After six years heading up our Sustainability & Capital Investment Team to drive energy savings across the business, he is now focusing on developing products and services to help customers manage energy more effectively. In December 2015, Dave was named Energy Manager of the Year by the Energy Managers Association.


Whether you know it as load shifting, Smart grids, virtual power plants or supplier balancing, demand side response (DSR) has a key role to play in today’s energy market.

This is because balancing energy supply and demand at a national level is becoming more complex, with National Grid having to juggle both the challenges of the energy trilemma (security of supply, affordability and sustainability) and the changing generation profile of the UK.

Yet participating in DSR can be complex. There are myriad acronyms to decipher even before you get to the bespoke control and metering requirements necessary to qualify for some of the services. But be assured that, while the set up can be challenging, there is a lot to gain!


A choice of ways to reduce demand

There are various ways to participate in DSR, from turning off electrical processes to switching to onsite generation at requested times. Either way, the aim is to help National Grid to balance the system by reducing the amount of electricity you take from the network.

Many organisations and businesses already have standby generation, which is used to support business critical operations such as call centres, production lines or data centres.


Concerns around security of supply unfounded

One of the reasons I often hear for not utilising this generation capacity for participating in DSR or Triad avoidance, is that senior business managers are concerned about their security of supply if there were a power cut while running their onsite generation. They believe they will have no power for their business critical operations because they are generating to the Grid.

And this is where the rub is. Because when it comes to ensuring greater security of supply, what better way to ensure business resilience than to have a generator or battery storage that you know can hold up crucial equipment or processes running during the periods National Grid believes have the greatest chance of outages.

The point being that your on-site asset is designed to hold up your business critical operations first – and this doesn’t change in any way when participating in DSR. You only generate to the Grid if you have spare capacity AFTER your critical load is supported.

Indeed, having a controlled move to on-site generation is a lot more desirable than waiting for the power cut that will start the engine.


Increase generator resilience

By participating in DSR initiatives, your equipment will also have the opportunity to run on load, so is far more likely to deliver when required.

So often have I heard that a business’s test requirement for on-site generation is to turn the engine on for ten minutes a month. 

With no load, this is rather like having a car which sits in your garage for 20 years where you start the engine once a month. What about the brakes, the gearbox, the tyres… Would you trust it for a critical trip? I know I wouldn’t!


Main DSR risks and how to mitigate them

Now, don’t get me wrong – participating in DSR does have some risks. But they are different to what most people think, and are actually a lot easier to mitigate.

  • Fuel – because your generator will be running more often and for longer, you need to ensure you have a very clear process for measuring and refuelling your site. You should consider your tank size and electronic notification of levels, plus have a good SLA in place with your facilities or fuel provider around refuelling.
  • Wear and tear – your generator will be running more hours, so you need to ensure you have an effective maintenance schedule in place for both the generator and associated switch gear. That said, the revenue from participating in DSR should be more than enough to offset the cost of this – and you will ultimately have a more reliable asset in your business.
  • Switch gear testing – you need regular testing to ensure you can switch from grid to onsite supply and back again. Not only will DSR provide the perfect mechanism to do this, you’ll be paid at the same time.


Get a clear picture for your business

DSR is not for everyone. But I’d recommend conducting a thorough review to consider its suitability for your business – and to ensure you are basing any decision on accurate information and actual, rather than perceived, risks.

At npower Business Solution, our team in Energy HQ can help you construct the business case and risk assessment for DSR. This will include not only a site and equipment survey to identify possible risks, with guidance as to how to mitigate these, but also the metering and control solutions you need for participation.

So do please get in touch to find out more.

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