Getting along and taking turns are concepts we learn as children. And the balance between supply and demand for energy requires a similar mindset.

An increasing share of renewable energy sources requires that as a society we consider existing energy as our common asset. No other country knows more about energy woes than South Africa, and here perhaps we can see why we need to look at alternative action and thinking.

Smart actions

On a typical weekday morning, thousands of Swedish households are preparing for a new day. Brewing coffee, making breakfast, shaving or blow-drying hair, and charging mobile phones and laptops. During this time, power peaks are created in electricity consumption, which means that the electricity grid runs at high pressure. This is something that creates problems in grids with a large proportion of renewable energy sources hard to regulate, such as solar, wind and wave power.

This is where the research on smart grids comes in – and part of the solution for these morning hours, for example, could be that supermarkets hold back on cooling to balance supply and demand for electricity in the grid. This would mean that when people leave home for work and school, there is a surplus of electricity in the grid – which is saved in the supermarkets’ refrigerators and freezers, and an environmentally friendly virtual battery has been created.

Users balance the electricity grid

Swedish supermarkets account for 3% of Sweden’s total electricity consumption, of which the refrigerators solely account for about 1,5%. Tommie Månsson, a soon-to-be PhD graduate at the Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering, has in his research project investigated the potential of using supermarkets and their cooling systems to balance the electricity grid and thus increase the opportunities for a larger share of renewable energy in the electricity grid.

“My contribution to the smart grids of the future are models for estimating the storage capacity for supermarkets, i.e. how long store refrigerators can be switched off without damaging the food,” comments Månsson.

Overall, these parts become a whole that enables a concept called “Demand Response” for supermarkets, which refers to how the user side – in this case the supermarket – adapts to the energy available in the electricity grid. Demand Response is a prerequisite for creating smart grids with a large proportion of renewable energy.

Technology with a bright future

“Much more research could be done on behavioural patterns and how it ultimately affects the electricity grid, but in terms of the technical part, pilot studies would be the next step in determining what technical and economic barriers exist in managing grocery stores. In addition, we need to understand that we must start handling the grid as our common asset,” Månsson concludes.

Our sincere thanks and appreciation to for the information contained in this article.

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