The GW4 Domestic Energy Consumption Group


Project period: July – November 2016

GW4 community leads
University of Bath: Dr Ian Walker
University of Bristol: Chris Preist
Cardiff University: Wouter Poortinga
University of Exeter: Aleksander Pavic

Project overview

Energy networks are scaled for a short window of peak demand in the early evening. This is costly for operators, whose infrastructure is essentially over specified most of the time. And there are serious environmental consequences: it is gas and coal power stations that ramp up to meet peak demand.

These issues could be addressed if domestic users shifted some high-consumption behaviours away from peak times. Time-varying prices are one possible mechanism to push consumers to do this, and these will imminently become feasible with national smart-meter rollouts.

However, trials of variable tariffs have so far seen only limited behaviour change. Notably, these trials have been small and the tariffs have been implemented without reference to end-user psychology – particularly the literature on how people (don’t) understand their own energy consumption.

Except for one study, non-financial incentives for time-shifting have not yet been explored and there is only one study on how time-varying information might be interpreted. At the policy level, we need research on whether variable tariffs and smart metering might introduce issues of energy justice and data privacy. Filling such knowledge gaps could provide a transformational shift in energy practice and policy.