The role of households in the smart grid: A comparative study

Panel: 8. Dynamics of consumption

This is a peer-reviewed paper.

Authors:
Toke Haunstrup Christensen, Danish Building Research Institute, Aalborg University, Denmark
Freja Friis, Danish Building Research Institute, Aalborg University, Denmark
Kirsten Gram-Hanssen, Danish Building Research Institute, Aalborg University, Denmark
Ainhoa Ascarza Plata, Energy and Environment Division, Tecnalia, Spain
William Throndsen, Department of Interdisciplinary Studies of Cultures, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway

Abstract

The electricity system is currently facing great changes due to a number of challenges, including the need to mitigate climate change and replace fossil fuels with renewable energy sources. This calls for new solutions at all levels of the electricity system. Households are assigned a key role in these changes by system developers, researchers and policy makers, e.g. by realising electricity savings or providing a more “flexible” electricity consumption (also called “load management”) in order to optimise the electricity system and balance consum-ption with fluctuating electricity generation from e.g. wind power. Thus, development of the so-called “smart grid” is an example of how the changes of a large technological system are affecting all elements of the system. On the basis of a comparative study of Norway, Spain and Denmark, this paper analyses differences and similarities between these countries in relation to the current electricity system, energy policy plans, smart grid research and demonstration activities. The aim of this is to explore how country-specific factors influence the conceptualisation of households’ role in the future smart grid. The analysis focuses on how, for example, differences in national plans for future changes on the electricity production side (like integrating more wind power, hydropower etc.) influence smart grid strategies and understandings of the households’ role in the future electricity system. Furthermore, the paper discusses the main challenges and limitations of the present approach to the integration of households in a future smart grid; particularly the importance of understanding the interaction between smart grid technologies and everyday practices. This part draws on practice theory.

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