Agent-based system manages energy use

Computer scientists at Southampton University have developed a system of computerised agents that can manage energy use and storage in homes.

The team of researchers, led by Dr Alex Rogers and Prof Nick Jennings at Southampton University’s School of Electronics and Computer Science, developed the agent-based micro-storage management technique, which allows homes to adapt their energy use to match market conditions.

By using energy storage devices in the home, the researchers believe that energy usage can be improved in a number of ways. If storage devices can be used to supply home devices at peak electricity consumption times, then it should be possible to lower peak demand such that fewer carbon-intensive and expensive generators are required, reducing both energy costs and carbon emissions.

According to Dr Rogers, the software agents would be installed into smart meters that would monitor and control devices in the home, whereupon they would then be able to optimise the usage and storage profile of the dwelling and learn the best storage profile given market prices at any particular time.

’This approach focuses on the system dynamics where all agents in the system are given the freedom to buy electricity whenever they see fit and, building on this, they can then learn the best storage profile in a market place where prices keep changing,’ said Dr Rogers. ’Another advantage is that if most homes in the system start using storage and manage to reduce peak demand, the overall cost of generating electricity is reduced.’

The researchers claim that if such storage devices and intelligent agents were put into use in the UK, it could save consumers up to 13 per cent on an average electricity bill.