To communicate production time shifts in response to weather conditions.
At least one company in Germany is offering a service that communicates to its clients’ high-electricity-consuming factories when local electricity networks are running low on power. This would be in times of low sunlight and low wind, or possibly even artificially high demand caused by the opportunity to export electricity to a neighbor. The client factories then check whether their present processes would permit a production rearrangement to switch to less electricity-consuming manufacturing or even a delay, and in return they receive cash from the utilities for the timely power use reduction.
A “smart” factory profiled in Der Spiegel that needs a lot of energy to run its silicon-melting ovens can reduce its power consumption by up to one-third within minutes after receiving notification. For this, it can get up to 15,000 euros per month from the electricity network operator.
The electricity consumption management company profiled in Der Spiegel has about 100 clients for this service, including paper factories, water treatment facilities, public buildings and a brewery, adding up to about 650 megawatts. The service said their timely communication can replace coal-burning power plants that are only used during demand peaks and replace capacity markets used to hedge utilities’ overproduction safety margins.
The necessary framework of laws is not yet complete, said a representative of the service: the big utilities now are the ones to decide which companies can join such paid time-shifting arrangements in power-intensive manufacturing. They frequently take a very long time to permit new factories into the fold. There’s also a regulatory problem that needs to be ironed out in that factories that increase production when there’s a surplus of electricity in the wires are fined heavily by the utilities right now, even though they’re doing the utilities a favor.
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