A low carbon electricity generation mix will be a key feature of our sustainable future. A mixture of an inflexible base load and intermittent renewable generation will make responding to demand difficult without the use of expensive, carbon intensive natural gas power plants. If vice-versa demand could be matched to supply a cleaner energy mix would be possible – further mitigating climate change. Many consumers could modify the times at which they use electricity to bring it into line with available supply.
The inhabitants of an of-grid alternative community in Wales already live like this seizing the opportunities presented by the output of their renewable generators - living their electric lives to the rhythms of the weather.
But how can main-stream consumers with grid connections be incentivised to adopt these behaviours? Continuously variable pricing seems like a good way. Prices would be based on the relative difficulty of supplying electricity at a given time. In fact there is already an electricity wholesale market that works quite like this. But how can the consumers be empowered to make informed choices?
That is where the Electricity Barometer comes in. It is a kind of smart meter that lets consumers know the price of electricity in an easily understandable way. Just like a Pressure Barometer the Electricity Barometer allows you to plan your activities mindful of the prevailing conditions. With this information continuously variable pricing presents consumers with an opportunity to save money whilst reducing the environmental impact of their electricity use.
As smart meter infrastructure spreads across the world radical interventions such as these have a huge potential to change our relationship with energy for the better.