A summer trial where air-conditioners were remotely switched off for a few minutes on hot days, resulted in a 27 per cent reduction in peak power use, without any significant loss of comfort.
Energy Minister Francis Logan said about 400 residents of Perth’s western suburbs volunteered to participate in the trial.
He said a switching device was installed in their refrigerative or reverse-cycle air-conditioners to allow Western Power to remotely turn off the compressor, but not the fan, for short periods of time on hot days. Switching was done six times during the trial, on days when the temperature reached 36C and usually between 3pm and 5pm.
“The results show that customers reduced their peak power use by 3.5kW when their device was activated,” Mr Logan said.
“This is the equivalent of using four microwaves or two pool pumps, it is a substantial saving.”
The Minister said it was the first time such a trial had been conducted in Western Australia.
“Providing non-intrusive ways of reducing energy consumption is a key to managing peak demand,” he said.
“WA’s peak energy use is primarily driven by air-conditioners, of which WA has a very high number.
“Recent research conducted by Western Power revealed that 90 per cent of Perth households now own an air-conditioner, up from 82 per cent last year. And 34 per cent of those households have more than one air-conditioner.”
Western Power managing director Doug Aberle said the trial showed that it was possible to significantly reduce peak energy consumption with very little effort and no change to comfort.
He said that all electricity networks were built to provide for peak use times.
“The question is, do communities want to live with more and more infrastructure when simple changes to energy use can reduce the need?” Mr Aberle said.
“The substations, cables, powerlines and other infrastructure that we build to support energy needs are not driven by normal consumption, but by the total peak. We build to cover the times of highest energy use, even if those times only amount to a few days a year.
“With this trial we were able to measure electricity demand on the Nedlands main powerline and it really showed that ‘a little from a lot of people’ can deliver a reduction in the peak.”
Mr Aberle said the volunteers from Nedlands, Claremont and Dalkeith had been surveyed after the trial and most of them indicated they suffered little or no discomfort when the switching devices were triggered.
He said the trial had several important benefits in addition to managing peak demand.
“The device not only assists with managing peak loads, but it also has a positive environmental impact by reducing carbon dioxide emissions associated with power generation,” Mr Aberle said.
“The device also reminds people of the importance of reducing their power consumption.
“Western Power is committed to providing a green energy solution to the ongoing issue of peak electricity demand during summer.
“The trial is just one part of a toolbox of solutions that Western Power is developing to address peak electricity demand, energy efficiency and emission reductions.
“Western Power is also looking at an energy management trial in Denmark and Walpole where we will carry out energy audits later this year to understand the local energy profile.
“Once that has been completed, demand side management initiatives will be investigated with the community to help reduce the regions peak energy use."