ESB launches Beat the Peak initiative to limit peak energy demand

ESB’s new Beat the Peak initiative hopes to limit energy consumption during peak hours. But will it have the effect it desires?

ESB has launched its new ‘Beat the Peak’ (BTP) initiative, which aims to lessen the demand on the nation’s energy infrastructure during peak hours. 

Under the plan, participating households will receive customised information on an ongoing basis on how to shift their energy consumption away from the evening peak hours of 5 to 7pm when pressure on the country’s electricity grid is greatest.

For the first time this year, a text message was sent out on the 7th of December to 4,000 participating customers warning them of the high demand on energy at peak times amidst a cold spell of weather. 

But will this initiative actually work? Will it save people money? Or is it passing the buck for energy conservation onto the consumer?

What is the Beat the Peak initiative?

ESB is launching its new initiative in the wake of increased anxiety about energy blackouts this winter, with concerns that demand will surpass generation at certain times throughout the upcoming months. 

As such, ESB is launching BTP in a pilot phase, starting with the awareness campaign ‘Is This a Good Time?’, which will run until March 2023.

In this, participating households will receive text messages, emails and reminders about ways to shift their energy consumption away from peak times.

In the event of an ‘amber alert’, where supply and demand are at risk of overlapping, participants will receive an SMS message asking them to reduce their individual energy consumption. 

It is forecasted that between 15,000 and 30,000 households will sign up this year, with ambitions to significantly scale up the programme in subsequent years. 

Dr Ellen Diskin, Head of National Networks for the Local Connects Programme, said:

“Beat The Peak sets out to empower electricity users with information on how and when they use electricity matters. This initiative helps customers take control of their consumption during peak times, and reduce demand on the system. It is amongst the measures being piloted this year in advance of scaling in the coming years.” 

It is hoped that with the full rollout of the BTP scheme by 2024, there will be the equivalent energy saving of 160 megawatts, enough to power 72,000 homes daily. 

Lack of incentives for Irish households

However, beyond reducing the risk of energy blackouts, there is little financial incentive for households to partake in the scheme. 

As we discussed in our most recent podcast, consumers with a normal, 24-hour electricity meter don’t actually pay a reduced rate for off-peak consumption. You are charged the same price, regardless of the time. 

As for smart meters, while over 1 million have been installed across the country, only around 100,000 have been activated, meaning that the remaining 900,000 are using it in the same way as a standard meter. 

You can find out how to activate your smart meter here.

And, there are concerns about whether smart meters actually cost more than traditional meters, with confusing, convoluted smart tariffs meaning households with smart tariffs can sometimes end up paying more. 

ESB does mention ‘rewards’, however it states that not all participants will receive any as they test out “personalisation, channels, calls to action and rewards” in order to “inform insights”.

Will the BTP initiative have a positive impact on energy consumers? 

As the initiative is vague on any details on financial incentives or rewards, it remains to be seen whether ESB will attract the ambitious numbers of participants to the scheme that it has stated (15-30,000 in its first year). 

It’s important to note however, that the electricity network has over 2.4 million customers, so this number is just a small percentage of the overall energy-using populace. 

Still, without full details of how people can benefit financially from the scheme, and the vast majority of energy consumers not benefiting from using energy at off-peak hours, it seems that more is needed than personal SMS messages and alerts to fully transition consumers over to off-peak usage. 

Part of the Government’s wider energy-saving plans 

This scheme is part of a wider government campaign, Reduce Your Use, that aims to educate consumers on ways to cut down on their energy consumption. 

EnergyCloud, a charity run by Eirgrid, ESB, SSE Airtricity, Wind Energy Ireland, housing agency Clúid, appliances and technology firms Climote and Kingspan, and Technical University Dublin, aims to alert consumers about excess wind energy that heats water tanks for free in times of over generation.

65,000 households will receive alerts to shut off their own water heater, while excess wind energy will heat their water tanks. 

The Government has already introduced €600 of energy credits in the Budget to help with spiralling energy prices, but for many this isn’t enough. 

Our unique position of a near-total dependence on imported energy and a lack of a gas storage facility means that we are especially prone to energy blackouts this winter, with the Government concerned that the geopolitical reasons for the current crisis may stretch into next winter (and the one after that). 

An EU agency that measures energy transmission, ENTSO-E, estimated that Ireland could face up to 6.25 hours of no electricity this winter, the second highest in Europe after France. Eirgrid themselves have estimated a potential 51 hours without electricity.

However, ENTSO-E stated that a five percent cut in peak energy usage could cut the risks of a blackout 'well below' the current amount and a 10pc reduction would see the pressure 'relieved substantially'. 

Find out how to prepare for and stay safe in an energy blackout this winter. 

Lower your energy usage today

If you’re looking for ways to lower your gas and electricity usage at home and cut the cost of your energy bills at the same time, check out some of our energy-saving tip articles below. 

Keep up to date with gas and electricity-related news by reading our blogs and guide pages. 

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