Elia: not clear whether the action of Lampiris had an effect

According to Lampiris (a Belgian electricity provider) their “experiment” to find out how a black-out could be prevented by asking people to use as less energy as possible, was a success. They used a graph that showed a small decrease of the total load compared to the most recent intraday forecast. Sure, there was less power put on the grid than was anticipated. I could agree with that, but there are many reasons why less power was put on the grid. Plus, it was not really unusual, as seen in the large decrease in the afternoon, which happened without any action. And most important, it had nothing to do with actual electricity “consumption” of consumers. Wasn’t what they were looking for?.

Luckily, not all the media seem to have swallowed the claim. After going along with the claim earlier, the VRT news came apparently to their senses and asked the net manager Elia to react on the Lampiris claim. They wrote the article “Not clear if the experiment of Lampiris had an impact” which confirmed my impression (translated from Dutch, my emphasis):

“No drastic or sudden drop”
Operator Elia adds some nuance to the results. There was indeed a lower consumption than predicted, but it is not clear whether this was the result of the Lampiris test. “There are more fluctuations in power, this difference is within the normal range,” said spokeswoman Barbara Verhaegen to our editorial staff. “It has not been a drastic or sudden fall.”

The prediction that Elia makes depends on quite a number of factors, including the amount of green energy, and the weather. When it gets warmer than expected, less power will get consumed. It is possible that the action of Lampiris had an effect, but that is not certain, is their conclusion.

“Definitely a positive impact”
It is striking that Elia and Lampiris use the same figures -the supplier bases its estimate on data from the net manager- but does draw very different conclusions. Lampiris spokesman Bruno Vanderschueren does not contradict that the actual impact of their campaign may be less than the 100 to 200 megawatts they claimed. “But it’s still not that bad. There was definitely a positive effect.”

Lampiris will send a questionnaire tomorrow to the participants to know exactly what actions have been taken to reduce their energy consumption. With this information they hope to get a clearer picture of the impact of their test.

What intrigued me was the statement of Elia that the differences were within normal range. Indeed, when looking at the load/forecast page on the Elia site there is quite some variation within the forecasts. When looking at the confidence intervals on the forecasts they go within a range of 400 to 1000 MW, so it is obvious that the range goes far wider than that “saving” of 100 to 200 MW. Such a decrease is in fact nothing special. There is much more variation than that in the data. In a blind test where one doesn’t know the time or duration of the action, I doubt whether anyone would be able to find it with confidence in the data.

Nevertheless, Lampiris is still in PR mode (translated from Dutch, my emphasis)

The test is over. We want to thank everyone for participating, we witnessed a significant impact on the Belgian grid.

Yeah, right.

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