Demand Response in the Residential Electricity Sector


The historical development strategy for electricity supply has been for new generation plants and transmission infrastructure to be built at a rate that maintains a capacity margin above demand.  This strategy has so far been providing power to consumers in all sectors at a low cost.  However, the largest, lowest cost generation has now been developed and new appliances and living standards have increased peak demand, resulting in higher prices, reduced capacity margin, and lower security of supply.  
  1. Keep prices affordable to maintain wellbeing of customers at all socio-economic levels.
  2. Ensure effective utilization of highly variable renewable resources
  3. Minimize consumption of fossil fuels to minimize CO2 emissions, and to minimize reliance on imported fue
The envisioned sustainable power supply system will have information and communication technology (ICT) integrated into the everyday operations just as it has transformers and circuit breakers today. The function of the proposed new ICT-Residence Link will be to let consumers know when renewable energy is available, and when the grid or generation capacity is under strain so that they can adjust their activities and thus electricity demand accordingly.  This new relationship is called Demand Response.


Residential demand response is one of the great mysteries of our time.  A whole field of engineering, called Energy Systems Engineering and Operations Management has emerged over the past two decades internationally to help factories and big commercial users engineer their energy consumption and demand schedules for cost management and efficiency. The new modeling and engineering practices developed for industry cannot be readily scaled down to the residential sector.
The objectives of this research program are to:
  1. understand and develop predictive models for the energy consumption dynamics and behavior of residential customers,
  2. develop design parameters and signal-action relationships for demand response,
  3. propose a design concept for a new ICT device that will integrate with the existing power supply and metering system to provide demand response to the system under peak loading situations, and
  4. propose mechanisms for longer term and consumer decision demand response.
The research will be carried out in several stages with experiments conducted on volunteer subjects, surveys, and design/build/model and test for several design concepts of the innovative ICT device.


The project focuses on voluntary demand reduction in households through adjustment of activities without compromising wellbeing and without placing excessive financial burden on lower income users. The thesis is that residential customers will voluntarily act to decrease their demand through elimination of un-necessary or un-important energy consumption.  Further we hypothesize that there are three possible signals to residential customers:
  1. Increased price or price penalties
  2. Preservation of security of supply (e.g. avoiding black-outs or brown-outs)
  3. Actions to reduce carbon emissions
One of the main outcomes of this project will be the assessment of the strength of the demand response to each of the three signals, or combinations of them at appropriate times. 
We are curious as to the behavior of demand response. What type of person responds to the different signals?  What do they do in response?  Does the response change or diminish over time, or is a reliable and repeatable behavior pattern established?  We plan to work with research partners in the behavioral sciences to study these questions and how they are related to the design features of the proposed ICT device. This work could also be done for people in Germany if suitable collaborators can be identified. 
People: Samuel Gyamfi

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