Reduce the risk of a Triad scare this season

Act now to minimise the impact of Triads on your half-hourly electricity bills.

This colder, darker time of year heralds Triad season, when the energy industry sees higher demand from industrial and retail customers. Triads are the three half-hour periods from the start of November to the end of February that produce the highest demand. “Tri” refers to the three periods, while “AD” stands for average demand. Each Triad must be at least ten days apart, meaning they can’t fall on consecutive days – this can benefit customers if there’s an extended cold spell.

Transmission Network Use of System (TNUoS) charges – which you’ll find on half-hourly meter bills – are based on average demand during the three Triad periods. These energy industry charges cover the use of the transmission system, administered by the National Grid ESO, for the whole year. Transmission charges apply to usage during this period, but suppliers will collect the cost incrementally over the year, based on estimated costs. This can turn out to be quite expensive, especially for heavy users of energy.

An end to Triad charges?

Triads could cease to exist by 2021-23, as Ofgem’s Targeted Charging Review proposes fixed charges to replace the current system. If this goes ahead, reducing overall energy consumption will be even more valuable as a way to cut costs.

In the meantime, many organisations will be seeking ways to avoid the full impact of Triad costs. This could mean limiting energy usage, or using on-site generation, during these times. Incorporating this into a wider energy strategy is another option. For example, our Virtual Power Plant offers an automated Triad alert and dispatch service, so businesses can allow us to manage the admin.

Avoiding Triads can also limit other costs, such as distribution, as Triads tend to fall during the most expensive Distribution Use of System charges (DUoS) period.

Is it possible to predict Triads?

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to predict these spikes in demand with 100% guaranteed accuracy. That’s mainly because Triads are only determined retrospectively in March – the National Grid ESO crunches through the season’s data to work out which three periods registered the highest uptake. So businesses have to wait until spring to find out if they’ve got their forecasting right.

In addition, greater awareness of the impact of Triads on TNUoS charges has affected when they occur in recent years. More businesses avoiding likely busy periods has made other times busier! Increasing use of embedded generation and demand side response is also levelling out demand.

Unusual weather patterns can distort results too. In February 2019 the UK experienced some exceptionally high temperatures for the time of year, with no Triads that month – in contrast to a snowy February 2018 when two of the winter’s three Triads took place.

When it comes to forecasting Triads, I’d recommend taking advantage of existing services, such as our Triad alerts. Although there’s inherent uncertainty involved in making exact predictions, we warned registered customers of all three Triads in 2018-19.

Are there ways to lessen the impact of Triads?

Despite the unpredictability, businesses can take steps to protect themselves from the costs associated with Triads.

Sign up to a Triad alert service

Our Triad alerts are free for customers. In 2018-19, we sent out 32 alerts for potential Triad warnings and predicted all three peaks. While these can’t be guaranteed, as prices are set by the National Grid rather than energy companies directly, they draw on the knowledge and expertise of weather forecasters and energy specialists to provide well-informed insights into when the busy periods could be. The National Grid also issues warnings when the system is likely to be under stress due to high demand and low generation.

Consider our Virtual Power Plant (VPP) service

If you’re a larger organisation, or a heavy user of energy, with the ability to reduce demand or use on-site generation, you could utilise our VPP. Its automated Triad alert and dispatch service can help relieve you of the administrative burden of doing your own forecasting, as well as helping you beat the extra costs associated with Triads. Our VPP can also make your energy work more flexibly for you by providing access to a wide range of other revenue streams and cost savings.

Look at historical patterns

I’d suggest analysing previous Triad periods to get an indication of when these spikes are likely to occur, so you can assess what you can do to limit your energy usage during these times. For instance, since 1990-91, all Triads have happened between 4.30pm and 6.30pm, with nearly nine in ten taking place between 5pm and 5.30pm. However, 2018-19 saw a Triad occur on a Wednesday for the first time, and one in November which is earlier than the previous couple of seasons. You can view the past few years’ data on the National Grid’s website.

Treat every day like a Triad day

While you can’t predict when Triads will fall, getting into the habit of limiting your energy usage, for example, by turning off lights when no one’s in the room, or turning down your heating, means you’re less likely to be caught out by spikes. Tools are available on our website to help you review your business’s overall energy efficiency, including carrying out an energy audit and adopting this into company policy. Organisations of all shapes and sizes can benefit from taking these simple steps.

Predicting Triads is not an exact science, but businesses that put an effective strategy in place, and stick to it, stand to reap the rewards. You’ll be laying the foundations for an energy efficiency strategy that can benefit your business all year round, not just during Triad season.

Following the above steps is a starting point, but for more in-depth insight, you can get in touch with your account manager or contact our team.

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Oliver McMillen

SSE Virtual Power Plant Director

Oliver is responsible for the development and delivery of Virtual Power Plant and Demand Side Response (DSR) related activity within SSE. As part of his role, Oliver works closely with external partners and colleagues to explore new products and services SSE could deliver using the VPP capability. He previously led the Corporate Affairs support – covering policy development, advocacy, and communications – for SSE’s Wholesale business.
View all posts by Oliver McMillen >

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