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Guidelight: Investigating low-carbon solutions for low-income homes

Solar thermal panels on a roof
23 June 2023

CSE is working on a partnership research project to improve the uptake of low-carbon technologies in the homes of vulnerable and low-income customers.

We’re undertaking new research to support a new multi-partnership research project investigating how to improve the uptake and performance of low-carbon technologies (LCT) in the homes of vulnerable and low-income customers on the electricity network in the south of England. 

The collaborative project, Guidelight, is led by UK Power Networks. Research is conducted by the Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE) and the University of Southampton, and stakeholder expertise contributed by three local authority partners, London Borough of Hackney, Portsmouth City Council and Somerset Council.

Increasing the uptake of low-carbon technologies

Guidelight aims to identify innovative interventions to revolutionise access to new technologies, removing barriers to LCT adoption in low-income and vulnerable households.

These interventions might include information tools and guidance on LCT use, accessible digital dashboards and low-cost monitoring services for a variety of stakeholders including households, local authorities, retrofit contractors and LCT designers.

Improving retrofit offers for low-income households

While some local authorities have traditionally offered retrofit funds and grants for low-income households to install low-carbon technologies. For example, heat pumps, solar panels, battery storage, and smart heating controls. We know households have struggled to use them effectively due to factors like the non-inclusive product and service design, digital exclusion, low energy literacy or financial constraints.

Without any support for switching tariffs or using digital optimisation tools, retrofit schemes could lead to higher energy bills and reduced home comfort for these households, along with potentially adding strain to the electricity network.

Speaking about the project, Dr Charlotte Johnson, Head of Research Programmes at CSE said 

Inclusive innovation is core to achieving the wide public participation needed for the UK’s energy transition. We’re pleased to receive funding from Ofgem’s Strategic Innovation Fund to deliver Guidelight’s Discovery Phase. It means we can start exploring how vulnerable consumers’ needs and expectations can be included in the sector’s understanding of how to roll out and optimise low-carbon technologies.

Early-stage feasibility study

The initial phase of the project is a three-month-long, early-stage feasibility study, which began in April 2023. It has involved:

Dr Ben Anderson, Principal Research Fellow, at the University of Southampton said

The Energy and Climate Change Division at the University of Southampton was delighted to support UK Power Networks and CSE on this short duration Discovery project. We have a long-standing interest and internationally respected expertise in understanding technical and socio-technical building performance gaps which will be vital to ensuring the effective and efficient use of low-carbon technologies in the home.

Guidelight receives funding from Ofgem’s Strategic Innovation Fund

Guidelight is funded by energy network users and consumers through the Strategic Innovation Fund. This programme is from the UK’s independent energy regulator Ofgem managed in partnership with Innovate UK.

This funding is part of the Discovery Phase of Ofgem’s Strategic Innovation Fund competition process. It is not guaranteed to progress to later funding phases or to become a commercial reality.

Ofgem’s funding will enable the project to research opportunities for energy network innovation. This includes widening consumer participation in the energy transition and identifying and addressing socio-technical gaps in low-carbon technology performance.

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