This is a reprint of an article originally published in 2015

So, demand side flexibility (DSF) is basically making the demand side of energy (i.e. consumers) flexible to changes in output. This is becoming particularly relevant as we in Europe move increasingly away from baseload power supply toward intermittent energy sources such as wind and solar.

Flexibility in power generation is important in cases such as Germany, where power generation is not consistent, despite being at the centre of the European power network (with a large number of interconnectors).

Whilst it is important to have flexibility on the supply side, with options such as gas power generation, pumped storage, and so on, there are big gains to be made by making the demand for electricity more flexible. There are basically two ways of doing DSF, with some overlap.

Implicit DSF is passive flexibility on the demand side, this can simply be users responding to higher tariffs at certain points of peak demand. Explicit DSF is where consumers respond explicitly to signals from power producers – this is often called demand side response (DSR) and is more common with large consumers such as industry.

DSF can take the form of simple demand change (where a consumer changes their usage), time-shifting demand (when a user changes peak consumption to a time of low consumption for others), embedded generation, fuel substitution, or efficiency schemes.

For a system operator, DSF can:

  • Increase reliability and efficiency of the network.
  • Balance their supply of power and demand for it in a cost-effective way.
  • Deliver flexibility at peak times.
  • Reduce overall energy use and difference between typical peak and normal demand.
  • Make intermittent power generation more viable and increase the prospect of decarbonisation.

DSF can be implemented alongside electricity storage, interconnections with other networks, and higher flexibility power generation.

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