Tri, tri again?

Should triads still concern industrial and commercial energy users?

A good energy supplier can accurately forewarn its industrial and commercial customers about upcoming Triads - and not wishing to boast, but our Triad warning team regularly forecasts all three peak periods with a high degree of accuracy.

This allows businesses to weigh up their options and either knowingly pay the premium that comes with peak-time power use or find a way to reduce their exposure to sudden spikes in cost over that critical time.

But for those businesses already making use of the far greater flexibility that comes with modern energy solutions - exercising greater control over their use of power, reducing their demand or even getting paid to provide grid support from embedded sources - should Triads still be of any concern? We explore the ways companies can protect themselves from Triads.

 

Triads - the science bit

 

The UK power market uses a system known as Triads to calculate parts of the electricity bills for large industrial users of electricity. Their power consumption is measured on a half-hourly basis with bills partly determined by how much power they use during the Triads – the three half-hours of highest demand on the transmission system between November and February each winter.

Each period must be at least 10 days apart so that they don't all fall in a cluster, and the Triads are only worked out after the event. That means these big power users have an incentive to avoid all potential peaks because there's a chance they might turn out to be one of the Triad periods. In turn, this flattens power demand across the entire winter period, increasing the security of supply and helping the network to be more robust and run more efficiently, as well as reducing these companies' energy charges, officially known as Transmission Network Use of System (TNUoS) charges.

 

Pick your moment

 

The easiest way to avoid using power at potential Triad times – normally early weekday evenings when consumer demand is at its greatest – is to simply stop production. Power suppliers often advise their customers when possible Triad periods are approaching as an important added value service. E.ON's Energy Markets team, as in previous years, called all three Triads successfully for its industrial and commercial customers in 2018/19, allowing them to make an informed choice on whether to cut their demand at these critical times.

 

Power up independently

 

For some companies however, reducing consumption is either not possible or not efficient. The way for these organisations to get around the perils of the Triads is by generating or storing their own power. In fact, the Energy Markets team can remotely fire up backup generation during likely Triad periods to do just that.

There are several options for generating your own power, with combined heat and power (CHP) plants for those organisations with a large heat demand, while biomass and solar PV panels offer the most flexibility. If you have the land, installing your own wind turbines is also an option, but it's a more complex and lengthy process. All these options are increasingly being bolstered by battery storage, which enables companies to store excess power generated off-peak and thereby cut the amount of electricity they use from the grid at peak times, which can lead to significant reductions in their bills.

Making use of these self-generation and storage options, which have the added advantage of being low carbon, enables you to almost take Triads out of the equation when it comes to your power costs by putting your response to peak time charges into your own hands.