Home energy usage data goes under spotlight in UK

Home energy usage data goes under spotlight in UK
Dr Tina Fawcett who leads the social research aspect, and Dr Philippe Grünewald. Image: Ian Wallman

A new Energy Demand Observatory and Laboratory will gather data on energy usage in UK homes, in order to inform future measures to reduce carbon emissions.

The new centre, an initiative of the University of Oxford and UCL, is intended to provide a high resolution data resource on real world household energy use to enable understanding of how, why, and when domestic activity is impacting energy demand and the associated carbon emissions.

To reach the goal of net zero emissions by 2050, domestic energy consumption is becoming increasingly electrified, with for example the move to electric vehicles and heat pumps.

However, there is currently very little information on how this will impact patterns of energy usage and whether it will overlap with other changes to the country’s energy system.

Have you read?
Smart meter data – new uses under investigation in GB
Unlocking smart meter data for research

Data collection

The Energy Demand Observatory and Laboratory is a five-year project with three data collection elements.

An ‘observatory’ of 2,000 representative households equipped with sensors to record the energy used by occupants, their appliances and their behaviours is intended to provide anonymised data that can be analysed to better understand patterns of domestic energy demand.

‘Forensic’ analyses of sub-samples of homes that have novel or lesser-known forms of energy demand, such as smart charging of EVs, are planned by way of detailed surveys, interviews and in-depth monitoring.

‘Field laboratories’ of 100 to 200 households are intended to try out policies, technologies, business models and other interventions in order to answer questions such as ‘how flexible is the time when people choose to charge their electric vehicles?’ and ‘does installing a heat pump have unintended consequences such as increased tumble drying of clothes due to lower radiator temperatures?’

Dynamic research

Dr Philipp Grünewald, a senior researcher from the University of Oxford and co-lead, says the initiative will raise evidence-based policy making to a new level by providing a scientifically rigorous demand observatory.

“This collaboration will be unique in providing a detailed, longitudinal resource of UK domestic energy use, which will be available to scientists, industry, and policymakers.

“The research will be dynamic, able to respond to a fast-moving technological and policy landscape and will enable us to propose cost-effective smart data solutions and innovation in real time and at scale.”

The Energy Demand Observatory and Laboratory is supported with £8.7 million (US$ 10.7 million) from UK Research and Innovation’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

It builds on the earlier UKRI supported UCL-led Smart Energy Research Lab, which provided a repository of smart meter data for research purposes, by extending the data collection to incorporate additional socio-technical data streams.

The research team intends to develop a range of innovative methods with for example artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things to monitor the energy consumption of the different appliances and the different energy using activities that make up daily life in the home.