by Hendrik Vermeulen, Katrien Di Preez

At your fingertips

Web-based energy usage counter for your home

Energy use counters at your fingertips

While renewable energy technologies are exciting, these environmentally friendly technologies are also relatively expensive.

Together with the urgent need to expand the local generation and transmission capacities, this has induced rising energy prices and the era of cheap energy and abundant fossil fuel resources is clearly coming to an end.

We are now seeing that household budgets are experiencing pressure as a result of the general economic situation and rising energy costs.

This can be addressed by educating consumers to improve end-user energy efficiency. Interactive web-based energy usage applications can contribute in a meaningful way to this objective.

Addressing residential end-user energy management

The electricity supply constraints and environmental considerations are addressed through two key strategies.

Firstly, capacity is increased by building additional power stations and lines and introducing renewable resources to the mix.

Secondly, demand management is improved through the introduction of new load control strategies and the deployment of energy efficient technologies to reduce energy waste.

Corporate companies have access to skilled energy management manpower and funds and can therefore deal more readily with demand management issues.

It is very difficult for the average residential consumer, however, to respond to these changing scenarios.

This creates a need for educational resources to assist the residential consumer in understanding the technical, environmental and financial issues pertaining to management of electrical energy usage.

Residential consumers represent a substantial and diverse audience in terms of age and demographics, which make it a very worthwhile target for education aimed at fostering good global citizenship with regards to energy usage.

From a Demand Side Management (DSM) perspective, the residential load represents an important challenge to the utility, as it is an expensive component of the load, due to it typically operating at peak hours when capacity constraints occur.

The DSM measures employed to target this sector including ripple control systems, remote load control systems combined with smart metering and the deployment of energy efficient technologies for lighting and water heating.

A number of utility load management pilot projects are being evaluated at the moment.

Some of these involve strategies where residential consumers will have to manage their load on demand or risk being disconnected.

This is an important area where consumers must be empowered by education.

A software application for educating residential consumers

Financially viable energy efficient end-user technologies are now widely available to the local residential sector, including CFL exchange programmes, solar water heating and heat pump rebate systems and energy efficient shower heads.

Installing energy efficient equipment, however, is only one side of the coin. If not empowered by education to change consumption behavior, consumers may simply end up wasting energy more efficiently.

Educated consumers, however, should be able to operate and manage energy loads to suit their own needs and budgets, whilst understanding and supporting system-wide considerations such as peak demand management.

The research presented focuses on the domestic consumer and aims to provide a web-based energy usage application that will influence the consumption decisions toward more judicious use of electricity.

The application allows a user to create a project, define a home layout, identify some electrical loads in the residence, become familiar with the load characteristics of the household appliances and visually see the impact of usage.

Professor Hendrik Vermeulen received his B Eng, M Eng and PhD engineering degrees in Electrical Engineering from Stellenbosch University.

After three years with Eskom, as a Research Engineer, he joined Stellenbosch University in 1986 where he is Associate Professor in electrical engineering at the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering.

He is a member of the IEE, and a CEM, and CMVP. Prof Vermeulen has written, co-authored and presented more than 70 papers at local and international conferences.

Katrien du Preez received her B Eng degree at Stellenbosch University in 2009 and is currently completing her M.Eng in Electrical Engineering under supervision of Professor Vermeulen.

Her project is focused on the development of the proposed web-application for residential end-users.  

• The extended version of this article can be found in the 20th edition of Energy Forecast. For subscriptions please call +27 21 681 7000


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