Guest Blog: npower’s Wayne Mitchell on Triad Warning Service

Are you set to save thousands this winter? It’s that time of year again, when large consumers turn their attention to the forthcoming Triad season and how best to manage […]

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By george marshall

Are you set to save thousands this winter?

It’s that time of year again, when large consumers turn their attention to the forthcoming Triad season and how best to manage consumption during peak periods.

Many businesses take this extremely seriously. For example, in a survey we conducted of customers using our Triad Warning Service, some respondents talked of putting multi-staffed teams in place during the winter months simply to manage possible Triad periods.

But when costs for consuming during a Triad period can be as much as £46,237 per megawatt, investing in a specialist resource dedicated to Triad avoidance makes economic sense.

(By the way, just in case you aren’t aware of what a Triad is, it’s one of three half-hourly periods of peak demand between 1 November and 28/29 February, as calculated retrospectively by National Grid (NG) once the season is over. Your consumption during these periods then determines your annual network transmission charges.)

Three key challenges

Indeed, we also have a team dedicated to predicting Triads on behalf of our customers. They use their expertise to gauge the most likely times a Triad will fall. But they need their wits about them because every year, this becomes more challenging for a number of reasons:

  1. Unusual weather patterns – these are becoming more common-place with, for example, winter temperatures way above, or below, seasonal norms.
  1. Cross-border interconnectors – NG’s increasing use of interconnectors to/from Ireland and the Continent to help balance supply and demand makes it harder to predict system stress. But thanks to lobbying from our forecasting team, information relating to how and when these interconnectors are being used is now being made available.
  1. Growing awareness of Triad benefits – as more business consumers become aware of the benefits of Triad avoidance, predicting when peaks will occur becomes more difficult. This is because demand reduction on a larger scale creates a negative feedback loop – so potential peaks then flatten out.

That said, we’ve correctly predicted 13 out of the last 15 Triad periods within the last five years. Unfortunately we – along with all the other big suppliers – missed one during the mild winter of 2013/14. But we’ve learnt from our mistakes, increased our prediction arsenal and are primed for the season ahead.

Our Triad Warning Service is available both to customers and other organisations we don’t supply. It kicks off each year at the end of October and provides regular communications regarding possible Triads. You can choose to receive warnings by text, email or fax – or all three.

Demand-side response is the name of the game

When it comes to the action our existing service users then take, our customer survey suggests that all participants (100%) reduce demand, with examples given including turning off pumping, hydraulic and other process-based equipment or switching these activities to more cost-effective times of day; turning off heating/air conditioning and refrigeration plant; and maximising CHP generation.

An impressive number (87.5%) also switch to on-site generation during potential Triad periods – with almost 78% of these exporting additional power to the grid.

An historic guide to Triad activity

To help you prepare for the season ahead, here’s a quick recap on some useful Triad facts:

  • Triads occur between 4.30pm and 6.30pm from November to February.
  • The main driver is when the domestic teatime period clashes with end-of-day industrial demand, so Triads nearly always occur on a weekday, with only two ever falling on a Sunday since the measurement began in 1972.
  • Historically, around 70% of Triads have occurred between 5pm and 5.30pm, with 25% between 4.30pm and 5pm.
  • Ten clear days must fall between each Triad period, so they’ll never occur too closely together.
  • December and January have been the most common months, with Tuesday the most popular day, followed by Monday and then Wednesday and Thursday on level pegging.
  • The first-ever Triad on a Friday occurred two seasons ago, which unfortunately caught everyone by surprise.

To remain informed, I suggest you sign up to our Triad Warning Service. Or to calculate your likely Triad costs, use our free Triad Costs Calculator.