News / What are the Triads, why are they important and can they be predicted?

What are the Triads, why are they important and can they be predicted?

We consider why peak demands for electricity during the most recent Triad periods fell to their lowest level since 1995. We also look at how to predict them and how your business can use this information to your advantage.

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According to the latest official figures, combined demand for energy during winter 2018-19’s Triad periods was at its lowest levels since winter 1994-95. To grasp the reasons behind this, it’s helpful to understand what the Triads are and why they’re important.

Triads are the three half-hour periods, between November and February, with the highest demand on Great Britain’s electricity transmission system. As a result, the Triads also have the highest unit charges for intensive electricity users - which is why they’re so important. It also explains why it’s worthwhile trying to avoid them.

The Electricity System Operator (ESO), a separate company within National Grid, uses Triads as a way to incentivise companies that consume large amounts of electricity. ESO wants to encourage these heavy users to review their usage and avoid (or reduce the financial impact of) the high-cost periods of peak demand.

The Triad periods aren’t determined in advance; instead, they’re calculated on the basis of settlement data. So, high-consumption businesses that don’t want to pay Triad premiums will want a good idea of when to expect them and how to avoid them.

The latest Triads occurred on November 22 2018, December 10 2018 and January 23 2019. The combined demand over these three individual periods totalled just 137.15GW, a fall of 5.65GW compared to the previous winter.

This was the lowest total for almost a quarter of a century. What’s more, a peak demand of just 45GW, at 17.30 on December 10, was the lowest Triad period since 1992.

There are four main reasons for this marked decrease in peak time demands:

1. The decline of heavy industry over the last 25 years

Fewer foundries, cement works and aluminium smelters, among others, means that there’s less peak-time demand for electricity than before.

2. Improvements in energy efficiency

These developments mean that intensive electricity users now tend to need less power than they did before.

3. More decentralised generation

Onsite solar panels, wind turbines and battery storage give even the most energy intensive industries an option to switch their electricity source during predicted Triad periods.

4. Partnerships with energy services providers

Such partnerships have helped high-consumption electricity users avoid Triad periods by anticipating when they should switch their energy use. For example, Haven Power sends Triad warnings to certain customers. Each warning includes a demand rating for a given period and gives the customer a ‘peak time’ half hour window forecast that highlights when the Triad is likely to occur.

The Triad warning status for a day is dependent on both (i) the forecast probability of a Triad on that day, and (ii) the proximity of the day's peak demand to that of other likely Triad days.

The warnings encourage businesses that are high-end electricity consumers to reduce their demand during the forecasted 'peak time' periods, thereby reducing their exposure to premium prices. Of course, the system relies on a combination of expert knowledge, experience and hard science. And it can be remarkably accurate.

For example, during winter 2018-19, Haven Power’s Forecasting and Analysis team correctly predicted all three of the Triad periods. This helped a number of larger corporate customers to make highly valuable savings on their electricity by switching their demand away from the forecasted (later found to be actual) peak times.

Find out how Haven Power can help your business save money in the energy market – get in touch using our contact form.

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