Our homes are getting smarter. Cars and electrical appliances now feature advanced technology in terms of functional convenience. The smart fridge for example, has a built-in touch screen and can keep track of stock in the fridge.
While features such as these are certainly convenient, they do not make home appliances any smarter in terms of how energy is consumed and managed. Therefore, energy is distributed inefficiently. Smart energy management is becoming increasingly important as electricity costs continue to escalate, and we consume much more of it. Due to these trends, there is a growing need for tools and technology that will manage energy consumption in a smart and coordinated way.
This requirement will become more prevalent in the UK, as electric vehicle charging becomes one of most energy-consuming loads in British households, further increasing electric bills. As energy consumption is becoming more complex, smart management of energy is becoming more essential.
Converting a smart home into one that utilises smart energy is achieved by introducing an energy manager into the mix. A smart energy manager can synchronise and optimise different energy devices in coordination with solar energy production and battery status in order to use energy in a smarter way.
Centralised management can create interoperability and communication between various appliances. Since energy appliances are unable to communicate with one another or detect the energy consumption of other devices, much less interconnect with PV production and battery storage, there is a fragmented energy environment within the home, leading to waste, inefficiency, and expensive bills.
Fortunately, the PV inverter is ideally positioned to take on the role of an energy manager and smartly coordinate energy usage in order to maximise self-consumption and energy savings for consumers. In PV systems, the inverter is responsible for managing solar energy production, storage, and various types of smart energy devices within the home, such as EV charging and water heaters. Because the inverter is able to extend its base functionalities of energy management to include home energy loads, it has the potential to do for energy automation what smart speakers have done for smart home automation. By making energy usage smarter and more intuitive, the inverter in turn makes energy consumption more efficient and cost effective.
Already in charge of solar energy production, the inverter has two methods of optimising self-consumption. Firstly, by storing energy in a battery and secondly, shifting energy consumption. By storing energy in a battery, the inverter allows solar energy produced during the day to be consumed at night. The inverter can also manage the battery in order to take advantage of Time-of-Use pricing, which was recently introduced to the UK market. Another way the inverter helps optimise self-consumption is by shifting the usage of smart devices from the evening time to when solar output is at its highest. An example of a cost-effective method to optimize self-consumption is heating water with excess PV energy.
The functionality of smart energy management embedded into the PV inverter is particularly important in the UK PV market. Because of the country’s discontinuation of feed-in tariffs, self-consumption is a considerable PV market incentive. Accordingly, technology that supports smart energy management is crucial, particularly because of how EV charging will increase the amount of energy required in homes. Once there is a smart energy manager that controls all of the energy in the home, this will produce the necessary environment for the deployment of virtual power plants. For the UK market, this could help stabilise the grid and even minimise the blackouts that were recently experienced across the country.