Q: When is the best time to use electricity?
A: It depends.
Electricity supply systems are rapidly changing, becoming more distributed, resilient, low-carbon and generally cleaner. This gives rise to many questions on when is the best time to use electricity. The simple answer is "it depends". Factors such as if you have onsite generation (such as CHP or solar), what the generation mix you have on your electricity grid (such as coal and gas power plants and wind turbines/solar farms), the weather and the season all have effects on how clean, green and expensive your electricity you use is on the day.
"A bit like asking when is the best weather - it really depends on the day, time and season"
Here are three simple ways to help you as a business or a home to use electricity at the best times:
Energy markets are slowly changing from fixed charges for electricity towards time of use charges. This is a bit like comparing a fixed rate mortgage to a tracker/variable rate mortgage. Each hour the price for electricity in the market changes depending on the demand and the most cost effective generators available to supply this demand, along with standby power for faults etc. Generally the price for electricity at night time is very low when compared with day time prices. There is also a peak cost time when maximum demand occurs on a grid and usually coincides with a peak price several times higher than at other times during the day.
The carbon (greenhouse gas emissions) of the electricity grid vary every few minutes across the day depending on the types of electricity generators being used to supply the grid and provide standby cover. The highest greenhouse gas contributors include coal and peat power stations as well as gas and oil power plants. Older plants and peaker power stations (those designed to only provide power for short periods of time) also generally fall into the inefficient generator category. Renewable generator times are also important as most cannot be turned on and off. So if there is a lot of solar farms on the grid emissions fall when it is very sunny (usually peaking around midday) and for wind turbines the same is true when it is windy. This means much like the weather forecast, people (and automatic systems) need to be updated each day on the predicted renewable generation to avail of the lowest carbon times to use electricity.
Very similar to the above on reducing carbon, but focusing exclusively on renewable generation in particular intermittent (for example not available all the time and usually cannot be turned on and off like an older power station). As above, the best time to use electricity to maximise the peak renewable percentage is when there is low demand on the grid combined with high renewable generation.
As you can see, it is not a simple answer and depends on many variables when it comes to seeing when is the best time to use electricity. It will also depend on if you want to use the greenest energy, cleanest energy, time of use systems and demand side management (DSM). For more information on this topic, please feel free to contact us on our social media feeds.