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Lessons from early adopters: electricity consumption profiles

Independent Analysis

Smart meter data analysis

As more firm generation (such as gas and coal) is replaced by renewable variable generation (such as wind and solar) to achieve decarbonisation targets, it is essential to understand the requirements the grid has to face in times of high demand, commonly referred to as peaks. These peaks usually occur when residential consumption is high and are related to activities such as cooking and heating.

As we electrify energy-intensive sectors such as transport and heat, it is crucial that we understand what factors and behaviours cause these peaks in energy demand, how these peaks may change in the future and how new low carbon technologies (LCTs) can be used as an opportunity to manage the peaks by either reducing it or shifting it to when there is abundant renewable energy, and thereby alleviate the stress on the grid.

Smart meter data is fundamental to understanding present and future energy consumption. Through Octopus Energy, we have access to smart meter readings from millions of customers from many parts of the world and, through surveys, we also know what LCTs some of these customers own. Smart meters enable us to understand a richer picture of how demand fluctuates with time, and “time-of-use” tariffs can help reward people for using energy at times when electricity is greener and cheaper. As customers adopt more LCTs, it is important to understand:

  • when the highest electricity usage occurs, i.e. when the peaks occur,
  • how the peaks change depending on the LCTs in a household, and
  • the impact that tariffs will have on shifting the peak. 

In this analysis, we investigate electricity consumption, also known as demand profiles, of UK households using smart meter data. We discuss how these demand profiles change over a day, over the year and with LCT ownership – and highlight the risks and opportunities they present to the energy transition.