Reducing energy bills by demand side management using ICT Tools (1)

Sample metered device being monitored on smart phone

The Historic Energy Challenge and Impact on Ghana’s Economy

Ghana over the years experienced challenges in her energy generation and distribution systems mainly due to external factors. For the past two decades, the nation had been through supply inadequacies, which brought about what is commonly referred to as load-shedding where consumers of electricity in certain catchment areas had to be disconnected from the distribution network as a way of managing peak demand to prevent system collapse.  Economists evaluate that the load shedding brought a lot of setbacks to the economy of Ghana which resulted in job losses, increased cost of business operations, collapse of SMEs, increased cost per kWh of energy used, increased crime rate, loss of investor confidence etc. Simply, modern Ghana cannot do without secure energy. The continuous availability of energy for use by consumers is what experts call energy security.

 

Government’s Challenges in Meeting Growing Demand

Energy production is in two sections; we have the supply side which consists of the generation, transmission and the distribution networks and the demand side which is the consumer side of what is being generated. Thus, there will be no need for generation if there is no demand from the consumer; in other words what the consumer demands is what must be supplied; this is what is commonly termed “supply demand relationship” in economics. Hitherto, government’s efforts have been focussed mainly on the supply side thus; the continual imports of fossil fuel thermal power generation plants into the country to meet the growing demand for energy. It is likely the trend will continue so long as the need for energy keeps growing. Analysts forecast that the tariff per kWh of unit of energy produced is likely to increase with time if the nation becomes more dependent on the fossil fuel power generation stations mainly due to the unpredictable pricing of crude oil in the world market and running cost of these thermal plants. This is likely to pose challenges to industries and the economy, as costs will be transferred to consumers; thus increasing cost of living for the ordinary citizen. There is the need therefore to make use of ICT tools to help consumers use energy efficiently to minimise waste and reduce their monthly bills. If this is achieved, the total demand on the national grid will reduce significantly. This is called demand side management (DSM).

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IoT Devices Are Here To Help Use Energy Efficiently

Due to waste in energy use by businesses and individuals, it is becoming increasingly difficult to pay the bills leading to increasing indebtedness to the utility service providing companies. It is important for CEOs, managers, homeowners and individuals to become interested in the trend of their energy use regularly so that, areas of waste in their system can be identified and dealt with. For instance if your employees leave their air-conditioners running after close of work, you should be able to identify this using ICT tools.

The internet-of-things (IoT) devices as the name suggests are sensor-embedded-devices that can connect real-world things to the internet so that information can be collected on those things remotely via the internet. In digitalising our energy at the consumer level, IoT devices make it possible to collect data on energy-using devices such as electric gadgets, gas pipelines, pneumatic systems etc. This data is logged in a computerised set-up and special algorithm is used to process it into useful information that can be interpreted by the ordinary unsophisticated user. Thankfully, the advanced nations have taken the lead to digitalise their energy and so consumers are able to get notifications even on their cell phones, tablets, or PCs ubiquitously. It is also possible to track gadgets to know which of them is contributing to waste in energy, resulting in high monthly bills. ICT has made life very easy for mankind and we thus have to take advantage of the numerous solutions available to us so that the cost of living can be reduced significantly. There are smart energy meters with enhanced ICT features that can accurately measure the energy use of facilities so that even before the Utility Service provider delivers your bill, you already know how much kWh of energy you have used in the billing period. There are untold advantages to be gained by deploying IoT devices to monitor the energy use of facilities. Parameters such as system current, system voltage, power consumed, ambient temperature of circuits, power factor, transient currents and voltages, periods of peak load etc. are accurately logged by these devices so that engineers and maintenance technicians as well as planners and policy makers are able to get access to accurate data for their work fig 1.0 shows typical data captured by an IoT smart meter over four decades.

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Sample graphical display from an IoT device

It is the hope of the Institute of ICT Professionals Ghana (IIPGh), that CEOs, Facility Managers, Planners and home-owners take advantage of these tools available so that that the scarce energy resource can be put to efficiency use. If this happens, a drastic drop in peak demand on the national grid is envisaged with consequent drop in price per kWh of electricity. As can be seen in fig. 2.0, electric motors’ performance and energy utilisation is being measured remotely on a smartphone.

The writer is a member of IIPGh, PE-GhIE, Association of Energy Engineers

donwiston@gmail.com

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