User participation in smart local energy systems is essential for their long-term success. This is supported by the ‘consumer pull’ approach to energy innovation promoted by the Prospering from the energy revolution (PFER) programme. However, the majority of energy users rarely engage in energy markets due to the current market set up and regulatory constraints, no real need to change and a general lack of understanding. Energy feedback initiatives traditionally offer one direction of engagement that provide information to energy users. More interactive two-way engagement, potentially with a community dimension, is likely to be more effective.
Clear presentation of 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 help users to understand how their activities and use of resources influence energy use in a more joined-up way. This will help users to manage, directly or through delegation, consumption, production and storage of energy, contributing 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, and deepen the impact of the EnergREV on user engagement, by using longitudinal local energy data to co-create a suite of smart tools that will be trialled using inclusive approaches in two of the PFER demonstrators.
The research will add depth and breadth to knowledge of what kind of smart energy tools work, for whom, how, where and in what conditions. This will lead to creation of new smart energy services that will be able to link local generation to local use patterns, benefiting local economies and social cohesion that will stimulate UK economic success and respond to societal challenges. Findings will produce significant whole system energy outputs that will inform future energy investment by companies and Government.
An interdisciplinary team of researchers from physical, environmental and social science will work together to co-design, trial and evaluate a suite of novel, smart and inclusive tools for enabling local energy users to become active participants in energy markets.
The specific objectives the team developing user influence tools are to: