Newsletter – February 2016

SWELL trials – January results

Energy Local’s Oxfordshire-based SWELL trial is investigating how to help people change the time when they use electricity. The idea is to minimise demand during peak times and to match electricity use with locally-generated power from solar panels.

Data from project participants tells us that nearly a fifth of the power demand came during the morning peak. But there were quite significant household variations in this pattern of electricity use. So, one household works hard to keep in control and, for example, does the washing when it’s sunny. Their efforts mean that only 6% of their electricity was used during the evening peak in January!

A typical day’s electricity use during January was a total of around 700 units for all participants. We knew that the January figures for power generation from the solar panels would be low, as it wasn’t particularly sunny and the sun is low in the sky at this time of year. There wasn’t a great deal of spare power to share with SWELL participants, but even so, each participant had access to 3 units of local solar electricity during the month. We expect this figure to grow quite quickly in the coming months, particularly if we have sunny days.

Thanks to SWELL participants

Many thanks to the SWELL participants who braved the weather to attend the drop-in session in Shrivenham Memorial Hall on 13 February. Tom, Mary and Robin from Energy Local were joined by Jesse Scharf from the charity 10:10, who are helping us show participants how they are getting on in the trial.

During the session, we were able to clear up a number of technical questions and chat about energy-related issues. Participants borrowed two energy monitors to find out more about the energy use of specific appliances (thanks to the Environmental Change Institute for the loan of these monitors). We also discussed the large amount of electricity used by halogen lights in kitchens and how to identify suitable alternative LED lamps. We are hoping to do more on lighting in a future drop-in session.

Bethesda trial goes ahead – thank you Welsh Government & Energy Saving Trust!

A huge thank you to the Welsh Government and the Energy Saving Trust who have provided funding for a first stage trial in Bethesda, North Wales. Working with Ynni Ogwen and Partneriaeth Ogwen, we will be helping residents to reduce their electricity bills while supporting a local hydro power project.

We are now recruiting households in Bethesda to be part of the trial. If you live in the area, or know someone who does, and would like to find out more, please get in touch. The project is called Cyd Ynni:Ynni Lleol, and more information is available at (there’s a form to complete if you want to be involved) or email  

We are organising information events for residents who are curious about the project, with presentations and the chance to speak to someone from the project team. These are at Neuadd Ogwen, Bethesda on Saturday 12th March (10am & 12noon) and at Mynydd Llandygai Village Hall on Monday 14th March at 6.30pm.

Taking our message to electricity distributors

Energy Local was pleased to be invited to speak to senior figures in the electricity distribution industry this month.  In her presentation to the Acumen 2016 event, Dr Mary Gillie talked about Energy Local’s work in community energy and the prospects for electricity distribution network operators (DNOs). These are the people who provide the final stage of electricity distribution, converting power from high voltage lines to the lower voltage electricity that they then distribute to our homes and businesses.

We are delighted to be in touch with Scottish and Southern Energy, the DNO for Oxfordshire, who are interested in the results from SWELL (see early results above) and in understanding how it might be used to reduce costs and make their systems more efficient. Likewise, we are in discussion with Scottish Power Manweb, who operate in Bethesda, North Wales, to see how we can work together to share the results of our forthcoming trial (above).

Mary’s demand-moving drama

And finally, Energy Local’s very own Mary Gillie has written a blog to share her own experience to shift her own domestic electricity demand.

“I thought it was time that I practised what I preach and see what load I can shift in my house. Not being a ‘gadget freak’ there, I don’t have lots of widgets. I have an outdoor covered area for drying clothes, so don’t have tumble dryer and I wash my dishes by hand. However, I cook on electric. My heating is biomass boiler which uses a bit of power and I have solar thermal for water heating.
Like many people with a busy life I rush in and out of the house a lot, so making sure I have enough clean underwear and getting the hoovering done at all can be a challenge as it is!
So what have I managed? I have put the washing on in the middle of a sunny day, or at night. While I have a delay function on the washing machine, I naturally keep late hours so switching the machine on before I go to bed works quite well. My washing machine also has a eco setting (20 degrees), and I plan to look at the difference in energy consumption between different settings – I will report more next month.
I have an allotment that I tend to visit at the weekend. I often do bulk cooking of the produce ready for the week ahead, and I try to do this before the evening peak. I have just bought a slow cooker so that I can leave it to cook over night. Being lazy, I have established that for vegetables I can ‘just put it all in together’ and let it cook! I am considering using a timer to help me schedule this. I have also investigated baking in a slow oven over night, rather than heating the whole of the oven up – something else to report back on next month.”