Domestic energy feedback

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Geography - SoGE

Abstract

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Description 1. Energy feedback has become a live issue for policymakers (and for some householders) in most industrialised countries. The EU Energy Services Directive Feedback of 2006 contained a clear intention to improve consumers' awareness and ability to control their consumption better. While not mandating 'smart meters', it paved the way for their introduction by requiring, implicitly, automated meter reading.



2. Trials of different types of feedback, with and without smart meters, continue to show a range of quantitative and qualitative outcomes. At the time of this study, direct feedback via a customer display was associated with overall energy demand reduction in the range of 5 - 15%; for less direct feedback (e.g. bills), the figure from literature review was 0-10%. The range reflects the complexities of which technologies are deployed, where, how and by whom. There was some evidence of a persistent impact on consumption when feedback users were compared with controls, and growing evidence that feedback was best seen as a necessary element in informal, experiential learning about energy usage. Improved feedback emerged as necessary for good understanding of energy use, but not always sufficient for effective action. This is in line with a constructivist interpretation of the role of feedback in learning. Prepayment is emerging as a useful form of feedback, particularly in conjunction with customer-friendly displays. Making it available to all, without charging a premium, could be a useful side-effect of the metering being proposed for the UK. There are challenges to widen motivation, and to support and maintain interest, e.g. through community initiatives, home retrofits, and time-varying tariffs.



3. The geography of smart metering implementation matters. For example, electrical utilities in regions with high levels of air-conditioning and severe peak load problems in summer are preoccupied with managing load at specific times, when they need to be able to measure usage and charge customers extra. But in the UK, the main policy focus has been on overall demand reduction to improve security and reduce emissions. The feedback effect on energy use has been recognised by policy makers, who have included a requirement for a customer display in the functional specification of smart meters. In this way, feedback can be provided directly to all smart metered customers in near-real-time, as well as via more accurate billing. In this way, they hope to capture benefits to consumers and the environment from a smart metering rollout, given that the business case for utilities alone appeared marginal or non-existent. The EC Directives on energy efficiency and on gas and electricity markets require improved feedback provision to customers alongside requirements for advanced/smart metering, but member states differ widely in the extent to which they make provision for this.



4. Smart metering was developed initially to address the need for electrical load control by suppliers and to provide automated meter reading, but the concept has travelled some distance since then. Smart metering is now also seen as a tool for balancing electrical load with available supply in real time, for integrating distributed energy sources with traditional forms of supply, and (if combined with appropriate feedback) for assisting customers in managing their gas, electricity and water usage. Smart metering involves a range of stakeholders including manufacturers, energy retailers and network operators, end-users/consumers, and government. The detailed affordances of a given smart metering plan offer answers to questions such as: Who is going to benefit and how? Who needs to understand what? Which people and things need to be mobilized to make these communications work?



5. There is a tension between schools of thought that regard consumer understanding and a measure of control as essential for low-impact energy systems, and those that wish to bypass both through automation. There is growing enthusiasm for 'smart grids' and automated (remote) household load control to cope with a time when a high proportion of intermittent electrical supply is allied with substantial demand from electric heat-pumps and vehicles. However, in the meantime our main challenge is to contain demand for both high-carbon electricity and gas. The prospect of automated responses arguably distracts attention from more pressing needs for better customer understanding and control, tougher product policy and more imaginative tariffing to incentivise lower consumption. Research is needed into balancing supplier, network and customer needs. More work is also needed to develop feedback arrangements and education (broadly understood), to enable energy users to participate in new energy infrastructures for reduced environmental impact. In particular, there is a need to ensure that disadvantaged groups do not suffer from developments in metering and tariffing.
Exploitation Route See above. I took an advisory role in the development of ONZO (http://www.onzo.com/), through a TSB grant for the ECRIS project (ref J3532F), which ran in parallel with the fellowship and was informed by it. ONZO went on to become a leading provider of utility-customer interfaces and informatics.

From 2006-2010 I was an external evaluation team member for the UK Energy Demand Research Project (EDRP), a major set of trials of domestic smart meters and associated interventions involving over 60,000 residential and SME customers. In 2010 i produced a literature review for Ofgem to contextualise the findings of the EDRP, (http://www.ofgem.gov.uk/Sustainability/EDRP/Documents1/SD%20Ofgem%20literature%20review%20FINAL%20081210.pdf )



I have also put the research to use in the following ways:



2011 Energy advisory panel, Which? magazine



2011 Social science advisory group, 'Customer-led Network Revolution', (Low Carbon Networks Fund project), Durham Energy Institute



Continuing occasional advisory work with DECC and Ofgem in relation to smart meter rollout, including an advisory role on the early assessment of smart meter rollout taking place during 2012, led by IpsosMORI. I was lead author on the Smart Metering Early Learning synthesis report for DECC, published in March 2015. This work informs the continuing debate and the recent consultation on using smart meter data to inform householders via in-home displays or by other means.
Sectors Energy,Environment

URL http://www.eci.ox.ac.uk/people/darbysarah.php
 
Description My findings have been used throughout the development of the GB smart metering programme, to shape expectations of direct customer benefits (from improved consumption feedback) and, more recently, to guide programme implementation design, as it is clear that it matters HOW smart meters are introduced, and that different circumstances call for different approaches. As part of the work for the Smart Metering Early Learning Synthesis, a colleague and I conducted focus groups with smart meter installers, demonstrating the importance of their role in communicating with customers and guiding them to use their smart meters and in-home displays as tools to help in managing their energy use.
First Year Of Impact 2010
Sector Energy,Environment
Impact Types Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

 
Description Influence on smart metering implementation programme and on evaluation of smart meter rollout
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Citation in other policy documents
Impact This review and paper have been widely cited to argue the case for improved feedback on residential energy use as a means of raising awareness and achieving modest reductions in energy use. They have also warned against viewing smart metering as an assured technical solution to what is a socio-technical set of issues. They fed into the design of efficiency and demand-response programmes, to make them more intelligible to energy users.
 
Description Influenced conduct of smart metering rollout in GB and provision of feedback via in-home displays plus information and advice to householders
Geographic Reach Europe 
Policy Influence Type Citation in other policy documents
Impact As lead author of the synthesis report on smart metering early learning, published by DECC in 2015 (https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/407568/8_Synthesis_FINAL_25feb15.pdf) I was able to report on process and outcomes of the first 2-3 years of smart meter rollout in GB and set them in the context of international experience. The report showed how public awareness-raising and detailed information for smart meter recipients before the installation have influenced whether householders engaged effectively with smart metering; the importance of the in-home display (IHD) as the focus of customer interest; how meter installers have a critical role in communicating with customers , encouraging them to use IHDs to help manage their energy usage, providing relevant advice and indicating where further guidance can be found; how ~60% of GB customers who had had smart meters and IHDs for between 6 and 30 months were still using them, and that these were the customers most likely to be satisfied with their smart meter; and how, a year after installation, customers were making savings of 1.5% on gas and 2.3% on electricity, compared with controls. As reported at the HoCSC on Science and Technology hearing on smart metering last May, British Gas customers are now saving 3-4% on both gas and electricity compared with controls, as would be expected if smart meters with IHDs contributed to a process of learning over time and to changes in everyday behaviour and investment in efficient appliances and insulation. All these outcomes are broadly in line with the conclusions from my RCUK Energy Programme-funded fellowship work: that smart metering offers possibilities for household energy management and customer-utility relations but that demand reduction has to be worked for, that well-designed customer interfaces are needed for ease of understanding, and that clear interfaces, feedback, narratives, and support will be needed to reach diverse populations. Since my Fellowship (2007-10), I have stayed in touch with DETR/DECC/BEIS in relation to smart metering issues, attending meetings and workshops, producing a literature review for Ofgem in 2010 and the Synthesis Report referred to above. While smart metering continues to be a contentious issue and the process as a whole has become immensely complicated, customer engagement has stayed relatively problem-free: in fact, it has arguably been more successful here than in any other country in terms of satisfaction and a modest level of confirmed demand reduction. I like to think my publicly-funded work has contributed to that.
URL https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/407568/8_Synthesis_FINAL_2...
 
Description Coal fires, steel houses and the man in the moon : managing energy transitions in a fuel-producing locality 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Short presentation at annual international conference
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010
URL http://www.rgs.org/OurWork/Research+and+Higher+Education/Annual+Conference.htm
 
Description Customer adoption paths for smart technology 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Smart Utility Summit, for industry, policymakers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010
 
Description Customer engagement and customer priorities 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact The Future of Utilities: Tackling the 'trilemma': balancing cost, climate change and dependable supplies. Featuring the Smart utility forum.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010
URL http://www.marketforce.eu.com/Conferences/utilities10/Programme/
 
Description Customer feedback as a tool for influencing energy-related behaviour 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Conference on Smart Metering Central & Eastern Europe
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010
 
Description Demand response : the effectiveness of feedback on energy consumption 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Elforsk Market Design International Conference : Design of Competitive Electricity Markets
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010
URL http://www.marketdesign.se/index.php/conference/design_electricity/call_for_papers/
 
Description Demand response, demand reduction and energy literacy 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Conference on Smart Metering - European Opportunities and Solutions
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010
 
Description Energy feedback : research on displays 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Presentation to DEFRA workshop in connection with government consultation on smart metering and consumer response
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010
 
Description Energy services directive article 13 : the view from the household 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Metering & Billing/Customer Relations Management Europe
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010
URL http://2008.metering-europe.com/
 
Description Energy use, behaviour change, technology and policy 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Lectures to undergraduates and then graduates in the Dept of Engineering, Lund University.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010
 
Description Feedback and behavioural change : questions of scale 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact First European conference on energy efficiency and behaviour.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010
URL http://www.livinglabproject.org/blog/first-european-conference-on-energy-efficiency-and-behaviour-ma...
 
Description Feedback in context - a reflection. Talk given to the TEDDINET Symposium on 'Feedback in energy demand reduction: examining evidence and exploring opportunities', Edinburgh, 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact This was the opening keynote address in the TEDDINET symposium on 'Feedback in energy demand reduction: examining evidence and exploring opportunities'. My aim was to develop the 'feedback is necessary but not sufficient' [for demand reduction] and look at how and where feedback is particularly effective.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Feedback, multi-utility metering, and potential impact on demand 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Panellist at seminar on the impact of smart metering on UK energy consumption
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity
 
Description Focusing the smart metering debate : what are the next steps? 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Webinar panel discussion, with representatives from Ofgem, nPower and IBM.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity
URL http://studio.indigopapa.tv/smartmetering_home.aspx
 
Description Fuel, housing, the man in the moon and the energy adviser : comprehending energy transitions at local authority level 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Urban Transitions/Technological Transitions: Cities and Low Carbon Transitions workshop
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity
URL http://www.surf.salford.ac.uk/page/Urban_Transitions
 
Description Improved energy feedback : what does it mean to energy users and what might it achieve for demand reduction? 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Oxford University Vice-Chancellor's Research Forum
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010
 
Description Is more feedback on water use useful? 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Waterwise Masterclass on Changing Water Using Behaviours. For representatives of the water industry and government.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010
URL http://www.waterwise.org.uk/reducing_water_wastage_in_the_uk/events/waterwise_masterclass_on_changin...
 
Description Smart metering : a short history and a look at possibilities 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Talk to local renewable energy club.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010
 
Description Smart metering, smart consumers? 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact ESRC/UKERC business seminar - Energy Targets, Smart Metering Seminar
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity
 
Description Tacit knowledge and energy conservation : energy conservation begins at home : scaling up energy efficiency 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact After-dinner lecture, plus two panel discussions
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010
URL http://www.aspeninstitute.org/events/2009/03/25/2009-aspen-environment-forum
 
Description The community action response : engaging households and communities 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Discussant at session on community approaches to energy. RetroFit for Purpose conference.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity
URL http://www.camecon.com/AboutUs/ConferencesSeminars/Conference-RetroFit_for_purpose.aspx
 
Description What data do customers need - and what can utilities manage? 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Primary Audience
Results and Impact Smart Metering UK and Ireland conference, for industry, policymakers, some consultants, academics and NGOs
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010
URL http://2010.energynetworks.org/previous-events/9th-10th-june-2009-smart-metering-uk-ireland-conferen...
 
Description Written and oral (3rd May 2016) evidence to HoCSC on science and technology, on smart metering 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact I sent in a written submission to the Committee and was called to give oral evidence. The outcome was the committee's 'Evidence Check: Smart metering of electricity and gas'
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmsctech/161/16103.htm