User Influence Tools

User Influence Tools

Why are user influence tools important for smart local energy systems?

User participation in smart local energy systems is essential for their long term success. However, the majority of energy users rarely engage in the energy markets. This is due to a combination of factors:  the current market set up and regulatory constraints; a perception that there is no real need to change and a general lack of understanding. Energy feedback initiatives traditionally offer one direction of engagement – they provide information to energy users. More interactive two-way engagement, potentially with a community dimension, is likely to be more effective.

Communication mechanisms that present local energy flows and interactions – including electricity, heat and transport – can  be used to engage users. This is particularly true if two-way conversations take place to enable negotiation, and enable users to understand how their activities and use of resources influence energy use in a more joined-up way. This will help them to manage, directly, or through delegation, their consumption, production and storage of energy. In this way they will contribute to network and grid balancing at the same time as gaining value for themselves and their communities. Communication takes place most effectively through a combination of personal and technological interactions: person-person, person-technology, technology-technology.

The action-oriented approach adopted in this research is designed to address the need to extend and strengthen user participation in energy systems at local level by developing and trialling spatial and temporal tools to help in the planning and delivery of smart local energy initiatives and engage communities in a more joined-up way.

What are the EnergyREV team doing in this area?

Geospatial mapping tools have the capability to provide spatial intelligence and engage local communities if they move beyond a one-way flow of representing local energy flows to two-way interaction with local communities. We are developing and trialling an online and interactive smart local area energy mapping (LEMAP) tool for planning smart local energy neighbourhoods in Oxfordshire (UK). The spatial-temporal tool has been designed for local authorities, community energy project developers and residents.

How is EnergyREV exploring these issues?

The LEMAP tool brings together public, private and crowd-sourced data on energy demand, energy resources, building attributes, socio-demographics, fuel poverty and electricity networks within the ESRI ArcGIS geographic software platform. Postcode and dwelling level energy demand profiles are generated using the CREST energy demand model.

The tool has been organised around three technical and three engagement elements that include:

  • Baselining local area energy flows in relation to socio-economic characteristics
  • Targeting suitable properties for low carbon technologies (LCT) such as rooftop solar, heat pumps, EV chargers
  • Forecasting energy demand profiles at postcode level for different LCT scenarios

The engagement elements include:

  • Participatory mapping to allow residents to visualise their energy demand profiles, compare against the neighbourhood and see how the profile changes with LCTs
  • Storymap for creating blogs on local energy flows
  • Forum to enable chats amongst users of LEMAP and project stakeholders


What are the emerging insights?

The LEMAP tool was applied to a socially-deprived but data-rich neighbourhood in Oxford comprising over 2,500 households. A social enterprise organisation in Oxfordshire was trained online to use LEMAP to plan for energy management at neighbourhood level. Participatory mapping was found to enrich the tool and engage communities to provide local data through online surveys and highlight any discrepancies in the public and private data through local data interpretation. In future, LEMAP will be deployed in a variety of  neighbourhoods involved in Smart and Fair Neighbourhood energy trials where the aim is to install low carbon heating with time-of-use tariffs, EV chargers and rooftop solar with batteries.