How to cut energy consumption peaks of the future?

In REINO, a project focused on developing smart demand response management, a research team led by Professor Sanna Syri is looking into how district heating systems could respond to high consumption peaks.

In the two-year project financed by Business Finland, the research team aims at developing smart energy systems that make use of digitalisation and the Internet of Things to find more opportunities for flexibility within electricity and heat demand.

“It’s fascinating to identify the peak load situations that occur in a city’s district heating system and what could be done to even out the peaks on a building-specific level,” Syri says.

“We aim to find out whether it would be possible not to take heat at full radiator capacity at all times. When the price peaks, would it be possible to cut the demand slightly without affecting users too much?”

Smart demand response management would make the price of energy more predictable for an individual user. When lower-priced electricity can be utilised at maximum capacity, while at the same time avoiding buying and consuming more expensive electricity, the total price of electricity will decline. The same could apply to heating.

Once smart demand response management systems finally become commonplace enough, the overall energy price will probably even out.

Major benefits through minor changes

Syri and her team utilise, for instance, online consumer surveys to measure the impacts of demand response management on building users – for example an office worker.

“We wish to find out how the users feel if demand response management is implemented in a building where their workstation is located. If we cut off heating for a couple of hours during the consumption peak, how do they feel about it? Syri stresses.

According to her, research projects have already led to inspiring results. At best, changes of a few hours are possible without causing any inconvenience to users.

“Buildings are well isolated, so their temperature does not fall significantly within a couple of hours. A slight temperature drop is not too unpleasant for the user. However, this is a major help for a large system,” Syri explains.

Companies join in to shape the future

According to Syri, balancing electricity and heat consumption peaks at the level of individual consumers does not necessarily mean that all of us should start taking care of the measures related to the balancing ourselves.

“Fortunately, we will not need to manually adjust our radiators at home. The change will probably take place through new service providers emerging on the market, offering a new kind of service to automate the entire energy and heating regulating chain.

With automated demand response management, the impacts on our daily lives and living are likely to go fairly unnoticed.

The service provider will earn a profit through energy savings, and the consumer will also hopefully gain some financial benefits from the new model, in addition to eco-friendliness.

Several companies whose business is based on practical smart demand response management applications have already joined the two-year project. These companies include, among others, Fidelix, Fourdeg, Granlund, Residentia, SRV and Aalto University Properties Ltd.

“Our research is being directly put into practice. Ideas are being tested and used with companies, and they are developing their own services and business based on the research results,” Syri says.


Read Professor Sanna Syri’s thoughts about the flexibility in energy systems.