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The Impacts of WHEN we Consume Energy

Most households don’t think about when they use energy, yet some of the advantages of scheduling and moderating your energy use (especially high-level use), whether you do it consciously, or automatically via technology, can make a big impact on the environment and your finances!

There are environmental and financial implications for when and how we use energy in our homes and businesses.

Environmental motives

The reason we still need coal and gas-fired power stations at such a scale is this:  when there are large demands on the grid for energy at any point, these power stations need to be fired-up to meet that demand. When the country wakes up and everyone turns on their kettles, toasters, heaters at roughly the same time, the grid needs to be ready to meet that demand. The higher the anticipated demand for power, the more power generators are deployed, whether they be coal stations, or the more instantaneous gas plants.

And, although solar is now a big contributor to the grid, until we have adequate large-scale batteries to store that power, its ability to contribute is out of sync with the times of peak power demand, that is, evenings and early mornings.

And so!

We can individually and collectively contribute to reducing the need to deploy large quantities of non-renewable resources by being mindful of the power demands we are putting on the grid, particularly during ‘peak’ times.

Financial motives? 

If you toil over your energy bills and wish they were lower, you have the capacity to pay less for energy just by being mindful of when you use it.

If your energy is billed by Time of Use, you are paying radically different amounts for energy at different times of the day.

For example, in my own household (Northern NSW) we currently pay 43 cents / kWh in peak times, but only 29 cents in off-peak times and 37 cents in shoulder periods. These tariffs differ according to your Electricity Retailer and the plan you're on. With some retailers, the shoulder and peak rates are very similar (both high..)

If your household can be aware of when each of these rates applies, particularly peak you have the option to moderate how much power you draw in these times, thereby saving you money.

Please note that the follow section assumes that you are on a ‘Time of Use’ (TOU) energy plan rather than a 'flat rate'/ single tariff.  If you’re not sure which type of plan you're on, or want to change to TOU, I'll explain more below.

Using a 'delay start' timer on appliances is a good way to control the times they consume energy

How to be more mindful of your power demands

Here’s the basic steps:

  1. Learn the times of TOU energy plans that apply in your area (more info in part 2),
  2. Think about what activities you can shift, or moderate, in Peak periods,
  3. Do it!  Whenever you remember to, and when it’s comfortable/ healthy to do so.

Whether your motives are environmental and/or financial, your approach to moderating the time of your power use is pretty much the same. For both, it is advantageous to use less energy in peak times, and more in off-peak and shoulder periods.  This is especially true for activities that use a lot of power, and that don’t have to be done at a particular time. Examples include: cooking with an electric oven, ironing, using power tools, charging batteries, washing your clothes in hot water.


Part 2 of this article:  the impacts of when we consume energy,

  • the implications of solar PV (load shifting),
  • tips for heating and cooling your home, and
  • maximising savings from Time of Use (TOU) energy plan. Then it’s over to you!
Seb Crangle - Zero Emissions Byron

[originally published on Seb's website:  www.homeenergyadvisor.com.au ]

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