Waking the sleeping giant of small scale demand-side response in UK

The challenge of integrating large amounts of intermittent cheap renewable electricity requires a transformation of the energy system.

The use of demand-side response (DSR) from distributed sources in homes, shops and offices is a potential source of flexibility. Controlling loads interactively also allows convergence between the electricity, heat and mobility sectors and helps to build resilience. Small scale DSR is already widely used in some countries and – in a simple form – has been widely used in UK in the form of Economy 7 tariffs. The future energy system will require much more though.

The advent of smart meters opens the door to this sleeping giant in the UK, but alone this will not waken it. Tapping into this diffuse resource successfully relies upon a number of conditions to be in place, and the experience of small scale DSR worldwide provides important lessons.

E4tech examined the international evidence on DSR in a wide-ranging study for the UK’s Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, together with academics mainly from Imperial College London. Our report shows that small scale DSR works best when carried out with large electric loads, such as storage heaters (preferably with heat pumps) and electric vehicles. The value of DSR is highest in highly developed energy markets with high thermo-electric loads and a tight margin in generation capacity. Successful DSR activities often feature home automation to reduce the user interaction with the DSR source. Not all of these are familiar aspects of the UK energy system, but times are changing and the giant is now only sleeping lightly.

E4tech’s report was launched alongside an £8 million UK competition to support small scale DSR innovations.

To find out more about the report and E4tech’s work in energy systems please get in touch via


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