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Smart Metering Trial

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The sustained population and economic growth of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi means increased pressure on resources, especially electricity and water.

We began this project as part of a concerted effort to track and analyse consumption behaviour of these vital resources so that we can plan for growth in the future. In particular, we wanted to test how a time-of-day electricity pricing initiative could encourage efficient consumption of electricity, reduce electricity consumption during “peak demand” times (2pm-8pm each day) and potentially save money for the consumer.

By participating in this initiative, Abu Dhabi residents are actively engaged in solving our environmental challenges and safeguarding our resources for future generations.

Status update

TOD Trial CDU image lowresThe Trial has come to the end of its original schedule. However, based on results after Phase 6 (explained below), we have decided to extend the Trial to explore the effects of certain variables in more detail.

Now renamed the “Powerwise Smart Metering Trial” and continuing into an additional Phase 7, we have removed the time-of-day pricing while keeping the customer display units (CDU) in the villas and continuing to monitor their electricity consumption. This phase is scheduled from June 2014 to January 2015.

About the Trial

In May 2012, the Powerwise Office began a new project called the “Time-of-Day Trial” aimed at understanding Abu Dhabi residents’ behavioural response to varying electricity prices, real-time information about their electricity consumption and educational materials.

The Trial involved 600 customers supplied by the Abu Dhabi Distribution Company (ADDC), divided into two groups. A “Test Group” comprising 400 villas was recruited to actively take part in the Trial. A “Control Group” of 200 villas was also chosen to be monitored but had no direct awareness of the Trial. The data collected from the Control Group was used as a baseline to assess the influence of the Trial’s activities.

The Test Group customers were:

  • subjected to “time-of-day pricing,” or two different prices for electricity depending on the time of day (explained further below);
  • provided with an in-home customer display unit (CDU), that shows current and past consumption data, cost information and visual indicators of current consumption levels—simple green, yellow and red lights that are easy to see and understand, even from a distance;
  • provided with a monthly usage statement outlining their monthly performance, savings or non-savings achieved throughout the Trial period and showing how they compare to the other 400 volunteers; and
  • provided with educational materials, including tips for saving electricity, to reduce and shift their electricity consumption to off-peak periods.

Test Group customers continued to pay their ADDC electricity bills as usual, at actual ADDC tariff rates. Customers whose bills would have exceeded their real bill because of the time-of-day pricing would not be required to pay any excesses.

The Trial aimed to:

  • assess the benefit of raising customers’ awareness of their energy consumption (i.e. display units, educational materials, etc.);
  • assess energy use (or “demand”) and how varying the pricing structure would influence this;
  • assess consumers’ response to the opportunity to reduce and shift their energy consumption when demand for electricity is at its peak; and
  • test the understandability and acceptability of the new pricing structure.
What is “peak demand?”

When everyone uses electricity at the same time of day, this maximum level of energy use is called “peak demand.” This generally happens between early afternoon and early evening, mainly between 2pm and 8pm.

Meeting this demand poses challenges and has consequences. Apart from the enormous strain on the electrical grid, it also requires larger infrastructure to handle this maximum capacity and more fuel to generate the electricity. This is expensive and considered wasteful because this full capacity is only necessary during periods of peak demand. During off-peak times, some power plants remain idle.

Ultimately, this large difference between the amounts of energy we use during peak and off-peak times increases the cost of delivering electricity to your home. But if electricity is used more evenly throughout the day, costs and infrastructure can be managed more effectively.

It is in everyone’s interest to decrease this difference as much as possible. To learn how you can easily shift your energy consumption from peak to off-peak, see our Powerwise Tips for Peak Demand.

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What is time-of-day pricing?

In a 24 hour period, electricity is priced at two different tariffs to encourage consumers to shift their usual electricity use from peak to off-peak hours. A higher rate is charged at peak times and a lower rate during off-peak times.

For the Trial, peak prices were set at double the normal rate of electricity while off-peak prices were set at 40% cheaper.

  • Peak price: from 2:00 pm to 8:00 pm, when electricity demand and costs for generating power are highest; and
  • Off-peak price: from 8:00 pm to 2:00 pm the next day, when electricity demand and costs for generating power are lowest.

By choosing to use less electricity during peak times, shifting the same activities to off-peak times instead (known as “peak shifting”), customers put less strain on the electricity grid and save money.

Project timeline

Phase 1: Volunteer recruitment
600 volunteer households from residential villas were recruited for the Trial: 400 for the Test Group and 200 for the Control Group.

Phase 2: Pre-installation
Volunteers' homes were assessed for the best place to install two small devices: one, a transmitter connected to the electricity meter and the other, the customer display unit (CDU) that would be visible inside the villa.

Phase 3: Installation
The two devices were installed and explained to volunteers, teaching them how to read and understand the CDU.

Phase 4: Learning how to optimise energy use
The initial months allowed volunteers to become familiar with the CDU and educational materials, and to become more comfortable with tracking their own household electricity use on an on-going basis.

Phase 5: Time-of-day pricing
In phase 5, time-of-day pricing began. Even though volunteers were not actually charged differently, monthly statements from Powerwise and data on the CDU showed their energy consumption and associated costs according to the time-of-day pricing.

Phase 6: End of time-of-day pricing
To show volunteers how their villa performed during the Trial, a personalised report was sent to each volunteer.

PROJECT EXTENSION – Phase 7: Smart metering
Time-of-day pricing has been switched off during this phase. Volunteers continue to use the CDU to see their household electricity consumption based on the actual electricity tariff. This helps us better understand the effects of the time-of-day pricing after it has been removed and continue to observe the effects of the CDU under real pricing conditions.

Interim results after Phase 6

Following Phase 6, the consumption data was analysed and results are summarised below. These are average figures achieved by the Test Group, compared to the Control Group between October 2012 and September 2013.

  • 16.8% less electricity consumption overall (24-hour period)
  • 17.25% less electricity consumption during peak hours (2pm-8pm). Of this:
    •  0.76% is shifted from peak hours and used during off-peak hours instead (“peak shifting”).
    •  16.49% is simply conserved and not used at any other time (“peak shaving”).
  • 67% of the Trial participants saved money due to the time-of-day pricing. Those participants saved an average of 12% of their electricity bill.

Indications:

  • Customers have chosen to use less electricity at all times, not only during peak hours.
  • Very little electricity shifted from peak hours to off-peak hours. That small portion (0.76%) was a direct result of the time-of-day pricing.
  • The majority of results are attributed to the CDU and customer education because they are present throughout the entire 24-hour period.