University shuts off air con to cut UK energy demand

The University of East Anglia (UEA) has agreed to turn its air conditioning either off or on to lower or boost its energy use when the grid operator needs to balance […]

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By Vicky Ellis

The University of East Anglia (UEA) has agreed to turn its air conditioning either off or on to lower or boost its energy use when the grid operator needs to balance the grid.

UEA’s air handling units (AHUs) – which use up to 1MW across its Norwich campus – are now equipped with Dynamic Demand.

The new technology is built into its building management system or BMS. These systems can be found in virtually every type of non-residential building, from schools, hospitals and leisure centres to office blocks, shops and factories.

It works on a second by second basis automatically in response to changes in the grid frequency.

UEA is the first university in the UK to agree to do so and it gives a rapid response – of 2 seconds – to help the National Grid maintain frequency at 50 hertz.

The system is similar to STOR but different because because the average switch is only around 2 minutes.

Open Energi, the company which installed the technology said this means it is completely invisible to students and staff on campus.

Collectively, non-residential buildings use an estimated 300TWh of energy every year according to the Carbon Trust.

Open Energi believes this vast energy using group could play a vital role in helping National Grid to maintain power supplies.

Their Dynamic Demand system automatically manages the energy use of assets they are connected to, such as air conditioning units, heaters and pumps, in response to changes in the amount of electricity available on the network.

Martyn Newton, Assistant Director of Estates at UEA said: “UEA has done an enormous amount of work to improve energy efficiency and introduce green energy sources. Looking at how we could manage our electricity demand more intelligently was an obvious next step.”

Ged Holmes, Commercial Director at Open Energi added: “If every air conditioning unit in the country could automatically adjust its energy use to help National Grid manage power supplies this would make a massive contribution to building a cleaner, more secure energy future in the UK. It delivers a win-win for customers too, combining revenues with CO2 savings.”