The journey towards transparent assessment of smart local energy systems

The journey towards transparent assessment of smart local energy systems

By Christina Francis, University of Edinburgh

A team of researchers from the University of Edinburgh who are part of the EnergyREV consortium, Prof. David Ingram, Dr. Camilla Thomson, and Dr. Christina Francis are involved in developing multi-criteria assessment (MCA) for smart local energy systems (SLES). Their core goal is to design a standardised, simplified, technology-agnostic MCA framework to examine SLES projects using a broad set of criteria.

Their initial approach involved an intense literature review and a series of stakeholder workshops. In February 2020, they held one of the last research public face-to-face stakeholder workshops, just before global COVID-19 pandemic hit and we all went into lockdown. The event was well attended, with over 50 participants including businesses, consultancies, financial services, funders, researchers, regulators and other advisors, as well as representatives from the Prospering from the Energy Revolution (PFER) demonstrators and design projects. The workshop enabled us to showcase our research and receive feedback on the progress we had made on the assessment tool. The final output from the workshop was that the draft tool should be simplified and refined, reducing the key factors to assess SLES from 10 to 6.

COVID-19 resulted in a significant shift in the research approach for data collection. Initially a questionnaire was developed to be distributed to the wider SLES community to obtain feedback. However, during the trial phase the team had a rude awakening – it was found that including over 50 questions in the survey was overwhelming and participants who dared to attempt it left it abandoned. A new strategy was needed. A brainstorming session with the EnergyREV Programme Director, Dr. Rebecca Ford, introduced us to 1000minds, a dynamic software that would help to achieve the task of ranking and weighting the 6 key factors to assess SLES. Working closely with Professor Paul Hansen of 1000minds to redesign the survey by using their revolutionary approach to multi-criteria decision making and understand peoples preferences via conjoint analysis.

On testing the 1000minds survey with the EnergyREV Early Career Researchers we received a favourable response and are now ready to roll the survey out widely.

The survey is presented on a game-like platform and consists of a series of quizzes to help obtain views on the relative importance of different aspects of SLES with the ultimate ambition to answer "What kind of energy system do you prefer?”. Throughout the quizzes you are presented with pairs of flash cards and asked which you prefer - it’s fun and take about eight minutes to complete. 

We are hoping that everyone will complete the main survey

Further quizzes are included on the topics of:

You can do as many of these as you like.

The survey will remain open until Monday 1st March 2021. The team are really interested in the opinions of everyone involved in SLES whether you are a consumer or other type of stakeholder.

If you would like to know more please contact Christina Francis at