Advice to use Anker to handle a possibly bad winter in Europe
How the European energy market works:
- each country generates energy. France has more nuclear, UK has more wind, Norway has more hydro, Spain has more solar, etc.
- each country imports energy or exports energy based on if their internal demand exceeds or less than internal supply.
- the energy market has to buy energy at the market rate. Currently some countries are subsidising energy so the consumer is charged less than market rate.
- Nuclear cannot so easily or quickly turned up and down, as if you turn it too fast you get a nuclear reactor incident (e.g. as happened at Chernobyl), but it can be turned up/down slowly over days.
- the easiest to turn up and down is Gas burning. Hence as demand and supply changes (how windy, how sunny, how much hydro, how cold, etc) the Gas is burned or not.
- Energy demands are greater in winter, and higher in the early evening as folks come home from work and turn on heating, cook, watch TV, etc. A lesser spike is in the morning.
UK’s today energy mix on a windy warm afternoon:
So you see in this snapshot:
- supply is above demand, as it should be to allow for a fault or a spike to begin. This is currently allowing UK to export energy. As a spike began the export would drop, Gas would be burned more, then the headroom grown back up.
- it is sunny in the southeast England hence we have some solar input
- it is windy towards the UK north/west hence we have a lot of wind power.
- however, we still need to burn gas to make up the shortfall.
Demand and supply pattern:
So you see today a dip overnight, spike in morning and again evening.
You also see demand is falling steadily as energy bills are climbing so consumers are consuming less, you also see renewables steading growing as UK opens up more wind farms.
The UK government is not planning to eliminate all the higher energy costs as that would remove the self-interest of lowering demand, the plan is to help the most impacted but keep energy prices high to push down demand. Other countries are doing it differently.
The current flow between countries, positive vs negative flows based on direction:
The country which does the least good job at lowering demand will be more likely to need to import and so will be the most vulnerable if collective demand exceeds collective supply. So those countries who not reducing demand the most, by subsidising energy the most, are becoming the most vulnerable.
"Will the Gas be turned off"
If you turn the gas off to domestic users then you get:
- the positive pressure in the domestic supply ceases and the gas pipes begin to fill with air, which is 21% oxygen. If they were simply to turn gas back on you’d initially get a more oxygen-rich gas mixture and you’d cause explosions as users ignited the gas - the flame would not be purely external (where there is air) but blow back into the pipes, blowing the pipes and cause huge gas pipe fires all over the country.
- even if that didn’t happen, some homes do not have the type of smart boilers and cookers who sense the temperature, so the gas flows with a matching flame to burn, so the home fills with gas.
- so if the gas supply is disrupted, it is a per-household engineer visit where they visit to turn off gas at your property, then they slowly grow gas pressure, monitor for oxygen, and once they are sure all pipes free of air, they then go per-property and turn on gas after ensuring you are there to ensure gas is off at appliance or pilot lights working.
- So a gas outage causes weeks of gas disruption.
So for many reasons all other steps before this are done instead.
Scenarios where issues will arise
- there is a European-wide deficit of supply vs demand.
- It is cold, dry, and not sunny and not windy. Typically this is a high pressure over the continent in December-February period where due to the northerly latitude and winter short days, it gets colder and colder each day.
- There is a shortage of nuclear due to a maintenance issue
- a drought is lowering hydro power.
- There is a gas shortage.
So this combination is unlikely, but if it did occur then managed power reduction “load shedding” begins
Load Shedding process
Industrial consumers of energy who have special service provision are asked to stop operating, or told to operate only at specific times of day when demand is lower (so not breakfast, not dinner times). Something as simple as moving from operating in the daytime to operating at night would dramatically head off need for outages.
Public service announcements on media are increased to talk about “doing your bit for your country” to lower demand. If this is not sufficient then it’s vans driving around with loud speakers, people knocking on your door, etc.
Higher consumers are targeted to be more reasonable with their consumption, example are rich people in big houses who can afford high bills, asked directly to consume less and live in fewer / smaller rooms in property.
All the electrical energy suppliers will be forced to do tiered pricing which is cheaper at off-peak times to move demand. That will probably be done by increasing prices on-peak.
People are advised to cooperate within neighbourhoods to share warm rooms. e.g. why have one person alone heating a room when they can visit a neighbour.
Street lighting and other non-essential services turned off in the less important areas. This won’t make a big actual reduction in demand but symbolically helps remind consumers to consume less themselves.
Lastly, as the last resort, so highly unlikely to be done, if all the above is not sufficient then rolling electrical blackouts are done in different areas, where are not critical users, for a few hours each area, so that refrigerators, freezers, and heating, charging devices, are not left too off long. e.g. electricity is cut in east of country for 2 hours 7pm-9pm, and west of country 9pm-11pm.
The rolling blackouts will help apply pressure on consumers to change habits. “If you don’t voluntarily reduce demand we are forced to do it for you”. If it happens it probably won’t be many times as the first couple will help re-educate consumption.
Gas is prioritised to burn for electricity, so a gas shortage causes an electricity shortage, not actual gas supply cut-off for the above reasons. So rich people burning gas to keep a large house warm indirectly lead to the electricity to be turned off. That peer pressure will be ramped up. The core strategy of all countries is to reduce demand and educate users, mixed with using higher prices to encourage cooperation, so outages do not occur.
How you can help
Check with your energy supplier if you can be on a time-of-day tariff where your energy cost is lower at night than daytime. If you are then move demand into overnight. Typically this is the time the washing machine / dryer to come on overnight. Some may be able to have heating come on overnight.
Lower demand on the sunniest days by getting as much sunshine into your rooms facing southerly and then trap that heat in to keep those southerly room warm as long as possible into evening to delay putting heating on.
Keep together in one room. Each person is a 100W heat output, so all the family in one room will keep each other warm. Yes, we know Covid not gone away so the vulnerable need special attention.
If you are cooking then live in the kitchen together. This was how most homes were for most of our species existence. The idea of separate bedrooms per person and bigger houses is a relatively new difference, permitted by decades of cheap energy.
We were living like this for thousands of years, a shared meal together in evening was because it was the lowest cost way to live:
Anker specific advice
- Buy and keep charged Anker Powercore and/or Powerhouse so you can power devices during a blackout.
- If you can get lower cost electricity at night then use these in the daytime, evening, to keep your gadgets going, then recharge them overnight. You thus are moving demand from peak demand into trough demands. A faster recharge is not helpful as you ideally want around 6 hours recharge to begin around midnight. If you are on a energy tarriff which rewards night consumption, this will lower your cost. i.e. a Powercore can pay for itself.
- multiple Powercore, so one in use, one plugged into charger for when power returns.
- if you have solar then consider using it, noting that this scenario of managed blackouts will be typically in evening and when little sunshine anyway. In winter the sun is low on horizon, the UV and higher frequency light is scattered by atmosphere so solar tends to be low power.
- Buy and keep batteries for Eufy stick-on lights, these come when it’s dark and sees movement, so you don’t turn on lights in corridors, bathrooms etc.
- Buy and keep charged Anker Bolder flashlights. Again you can use these pointed at ceiling, behind a transparent bottle of water, to light up a room. At bedtime you can plug into recharge.
- Do a dress rehearsal to familiarise yourself. “Outage drill”.
There’s genuinely nothing to fear, the demand vs supply is not that big an issue for most, as in the recent memory we consumed far less energy than now and were perfectly warm and comfortable. The challenge is moving from an era of cheap reliable energy to how it used to be decades earlier. Instead of a family split across different rooms looking at different screens, together is more sociable (and cheaper).