We live in a world where sources of energy are becoming increasingly scarce and expensive: for societies that expect water, electricity and gas at the flick of a switch or turn of a tap, the implications of this scarcity for future comfort and well-being are significant. Through its involvement in three TEDDI (Transforming Energy Demand through Digital Innovation) projects – C-Aware, DESIMAX and Wi-be – Horizon’s energy research aims to explore ways to both alter consumer attitudes and behaviour, and to improve the efficiency of our energy infrastructure to avoid future energy crises.
Achieving these aims requires a multi-disciplinary approach to research. Experts in the fields of Psychology offer insight into how new technologies might motivate and sustain energy-saving behaviour, how information and marketing of energy interacts with consumer attitudes, and how an increasing social awareness of and responsibility for consumption might affect social relationships. Computer Scientists provide vital knowledge on what must be developed to leverage the data that will be generated by Smart Meters (and other future Grid technologies), to deliver the valuable products and services that will be driven by that data to the consumer. In conjunction, Horizon energy researchers have a collective ability to develop new technologies, rigorously examine their effects in controlled conditions, and to deploy and study their use in the real world; this is key to providing rapid, significant contributions to the time-critical issues of energy security and climate change.
The research aims to:
Explore the ways in which technologies can be designed and employed to raise awareness of energy consumption and its social, financial and environmental impact
C-Aware explores what new products and services could be built to provide consumers with an understanding of the social, financial and environmental context in which they use energy, aiming to encourage more informed choices about how to manage energy consumption. Horizon is leading this process by involving consumers (both domestic and commercial) in the design and evaluation of a range of prototypes.
We use participatory design to spark discussions around key topical issues such as whether making energy consumption data public is an effective, ethical motivator. Researchers with backgrounds in Psychology are also focusing on using a range of studies to determine whether consumers understand concepts such as kilowatt-hours or the effects of carbon emissions, and how consumers are affected by the framing of consumption in different ways.
These questions ask not only whether new technologies are academically interesting, but also whether – as interventions into the daily lives of consumers – they will be embraced, or rejected.