Smarter warmer homes: a workshop

Exploring the benefits of smart energy technologies for vulnerable households

Project duration: September 2017 to September 2017

As part of Bristol’s Healthy City Week and with the support of Nottingham University, CSE held a workshop with 30 practitioners to explore the benefits of smarter energy technologies and their use in protecting or supporting vulnerable energy consumers. The chair of the workshop, CSE’s Simon Roberts said "It was encouraging to see people coming together from different sectors to think how smart energy can be put to work for vulnerable people.

Date: 11 October 2017
Venue: The Foundation, St George's Road, Bristol

“Smart energy technology such as smart meters, in-home displays and temperature and humidity monitoring offers massive potential benefits for vulnerable people who are struggling to manage their energy use. It can be used to trigger warnings for support workers when a home is consistently underheated, for example. The workshop resulted in some really productive conversations about mobilising the technology for these sorts of uses” said CSE's Nick Banks, who coordinated the workshop.

To read a full summary of the themes and issues discussed at the workshop please see this document.

A number of key themes were highlighted throughout the workshop:

  1. Smarter energy technology cannot enable wiser energy choices or stimulate behavioural change by itself. But it certainly has a role to play within a wider package of support.
  2. There is much work to be done in developing the analytics that can make sense of the mass of data that is now becoming available. It is not enough to put in place real time monitoring: the capacity to interpret that data by different stakeholders (including the householder) on different platforms is key. 
  3. Presentation of smart energy information and the structure of support to enable its interpretation and use should pay careful attention to the nature of vulnerability but also be flexible - many of the benefits of smart systems are applicable to everyone.Co-design with users of smart energy technology systems and platforms is critical.
  4. Barriers to vulnerable groups benefiting from smart energy technologies include digital exclusion and issues related to numeracy, literacy and language. The inability to act on the information is also a fundamental barrier. 
  5. Smart energy technologies must be designed to align with the attitudes, needs, capacities and culture of the users, otherwise they will be ignored, abandoned and put away in a drawer. The use case must be apparent and easily communicated.
  6. Energy suppliers are unlikely to develop smart energy technologies (around the smart meter platform) which are targeted at meeting the needs of vulnerable households unless there is a business case or a regulatory requirement.

The presentations from the workshop are linked to below.

Nicky Hodges (CSE)
James Colley (University of Nottingham)
Matt Jones (Replicate)
Alastair Thorpe (Switchee)
Eric Taylor (Systems Level Solutions)
Karen Smith (CSE)

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