Friday, 30 October 2009

Clear requirements for real-time energy displays or smart meters

The Centre for Sustainable Energy has been asking people in the UK what they want from a Smart Meter and what information will best help them cut down on their daily energy usage...

"The national roll-out of smart meters is an opportunity to improve consumer information on energy use through the integration of home energy displays with the smart meter technology. This study sought to define a core specification for these real-time energy displays, derived from a qualitative investigation of consumer experience of the electricity displays currently available on the market.

Only one of the displays used in the study, the GEO minim, comes close to meeting this specification. Despite a relatively well developed display industry in the UK, the majority of the home energy displays currently on the market do not have the functionality that consumers identify, in practice, as being critical to display design. Hence ‘the market’ cannot be relied on to deliver an outcome that is optimal for consumers."

The study also found that...

"Participants knew very little about their energy consumption. Those on prepayment meters had the best sense of what they were spending but this did not translate into an understanding of what used more or less energy in their homes. Consequently, the displays enabled all participants to learn about the differences in the power consumption of different lights and appliances. The types of knowledge that participants gained included:

- The power consumption of lights and appliances in Watts or kilowatts.
- How much it costs to run different appliances.
- Household baseload consumption. “I’m now getting used to the display and numbers. I know that it mostly sits at 0.129kW with just the TV on and it’s 0.048kW with everything off.
The range of their energy consumption levels and therefore what constitutes a high level of consumption (at least for them)
- Typical daily consumption or spend. “I remembered values from previous days. You get to know your daily consumption level. The most I ever used in one day was 40p.”
- Patterns of energy consumption over the week. “A lot of energy gets consumed on weekends with everyone home. This is usually taken for granted but now we’re trying to do something about it”.
- The link between individual and collective energy consumption. “If everyone turned their fridge down, it would make big difference.”

It's a fascinating insight into how we understand and interpret our normal power usage and if understanding is the first step to controlling and reducing our energy use, then that's got to be a good thing.

Read the full report which includes anecdotes from members of the public involved in the study, by visiting the CSE's website - click here.

photo credit: scraplab

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