Sustainability in the given context can be defined as civilized use of current resources without compromising needs of future generations. This phenomenon builds an unique stand for the Electrical system especially now when transition to cleaner energy is imminent. From Environmental, Economic and Social point of view, constructing new power plants fired by Renewable Energy Sources seems sustainable, but is it?
Electrical systems have two types of load based on the demand- Base load which is constantly required by the customer and Peak load which can be seen during heavily busy hours. System is always designed for the peak load. Base load has to be constant hence Coal, Nuclear, Geothermal power plants are used, For Peak load, Gas fired power plants are used. Renewable Energy Sources can also be used since they are being more reliable.
Since the system is designed based on Peak load profile, installing new power plants which are used for small amounts of time is costlier than using the existing supply cautiously. Utilities try to shave that peak and extend the period as long as possible. Hence, utilities introduce various programs to switch off- on certain devices/load as per the demand and supply in the grid helping customers and themselves economically and environmentally. It’s a Win Win.
One powerful tool for this Win Win is Demand Side Management. It is a contrivance proposed by Utilities to modulate energy at Consumer’s consumption as per Utility’s generation and supplying capacity at particular instant. For example: If there’s a function in City hall, demand is high for 3 hours, with one of DMS programme ‘Cycling’ utility can turn off heavily loaded equipment (to which the controllable device is attached) for next three hours in nearby houses who signed up for the program and pay the incentive or deduct this amount from bill, thus shaving the peak.
With the DMS program, Customers can witness reduction in bill, Utilities can shave the peak and elongate the need for construction of new power plants and reduced environmental footprint (assuming peak load was supplied by Gas and Diesel fired power plants) can be observed. So from a Social, Economic and Environmental point of view DMS is an aid for Sustainable Energy. It is worth noting, construction of Hydroelectric power supply can serve both base and peak load demand. Renewable Energy Sources with Storage can combat intermittent nature and serve as base load demand as well. Regardless of type of source, construction of new power plants needs space, resources hence it is always better to utilize the existence with maximum efficiency.