What do households really think about smart and local energy services?

What do households really think about smart and local energy services?

By Patrick Devine-Wright, University of Exeter and Matt Blackmur, ERIS, Energy Systems Catapult

The way that we interact with energy is changing.  To Decarbonise our energy use, innovators are increasingly pushing for Digitalisation - smart technology for monitoring and control, Decentralisation - installing energy technology locally to communities and Democratisation - giving people a bigger say in their use of energy. These four “D”s offer huge opportunities for green economic growth in the UK, the creation of jobs and skills in communities, and the many other co-benefits associated with climate action.

But they also represent a seismic change to the way people will interact with these future views of energy in their homes and communities. The technologies used to deliver comfort could behave differently, needing longer to warm up, reaching lower peak temperatures or having entirely new interfaces. Or they may need to substantially alter their own behaviour to get the best possible deal or avoid premium prices.

The Government and hundreds of innovators have co-invested in these future energy systems through the Prospering from the Energy Revolution (PFER) programme. They’re coming up with many different energy products and services that could be offered to households in the future as part of a smart local energy system. EnergyREV and Energy Systems Catapult have partnered-up to investigate what people think about these future energy systems and how much people really want the services that they might offer.

EnergyREV will be looking at public awareness and support for system change from a more distant, centralised energy system to a more localised one using renewable energy technologies and electric vehicles. We will explore the perceived risks and drawbacks as well as overall levels of public support for local energy and transport solutions. We will investigate what people think about general changes of this kind across UK towns and cities, as well as specific changes to the local areas near where people live. And we will investigate if these perceptions differ according to people’s personal, social-psychological and geographical characteristics such as their age, gender, level of education or place of residence.

Energy Systems Catapult will be evaluating how households view the common services that we’ve seen innovators exploring across the PFER programme. This includes offerings like rewarding people changing their behaviour (demand side response), technologies behaving differently (advanced heating or transport technologies and services) and locating things in communities (public deployment of chargers or heat networks). We’ll explore how appealing people find these services, whether the services are relevant, whether they are easy to understand, and how they perceive the benefits of these services.

Results will be published collaboratively later in 2021. For further details of the EnergyREV study, please contact Prof. Patrick Devine-Wright: p.g.devine-wright@exeter.ac.uk and Dr. Chad Walker: C.J.R.Walker@exeter.ac.uk

For further details of the Energy Systems Catapult work, please contact the ERIS Team.