|Murray 1 Snowy Hydro Station,|
by Martin Kraft/Wikimedia
Commons, CC BY-SA
However, there is another underused source of on-demand power available in people's homes: the air-conditioner. The air-conditioner is a large part of the energy supply problem but could be part of the solution. A home ducted home air-conditioner uses about 5KW of power. A medium room air-conditioner uses 2.3KW. What if we could pay householders to halve their air-conditioning energy use at times of high energy demand?
Smart meters and some air conditioners have a Demand Response Enabling Device (DRED) option. This allows the electricity supplier to remotely switch the air-conditioner to a lower power mode at times of peak demand. The supplier offers a cash payment up front and a lower electricity charge to householders who take up the option. However, this is not very popular.
If we could use smart-phones, and sharing economy techniques to provide more of an incentive to consumers, would this be cost effective?
A quick back-of the-envelope calculation:
Cost of Snowy #2 power: $2B for 2000 MW = $1,000 per KW.
Assuming a consumer would halve their air-conditioner consumption on demand, 5KW to 2.3KW = 2.7 KW saved. This would have to cost less than $2,700 to be cheaper than Snowy #2. Retrofitting DRED may well cost more than this. However, smart air-conditioners may require no extra hardware. The difficulty would be making it feasible for the consumer to enable the function, without requiring a technician to visit.
photo by By Ayaita
(Own work) [CC BY 3.0],
via Wikimedia Commons
However, how many households would need to have DRED? The Snowy Hydro 2 scheme is proposed to produce 2000 MW. At 2.7 KW saved per household, that requires almost three quarters of a million households: 8% of the 9m in Australia. Also it is unlikely that these householders would be willing to give up half their air-conditioning for long periods. But such a system might be used during the annual peaks and when there is a problem with regular supply, rather than have fossil fuel stations on standby.