Previous energy projects in Horizon (Electric20, C-Aware, Smart Living) highlighted opportunities to use domestic energy data to encourage households to reduce energy demand by replacing their appliances when they stop becoming cost-effective: the “lifetime costs” of purchasing and using domestic appliances over a number of years may dramatically outweigh their off-the-shelf cost, and also may vary widely between households depending on their circumstances. Access to this information may allow households to make much more financially-rational decisions about when to replace and recycle their appliances and what appliances to choose. However, these decisions rely on forward-planning and valuing benefits recouped over years ahead: our past projects have revealed that consumers often respond more readily to a variety of other factors, including community pressure and trends, and that it is vital to understand how these factors interact in order to encourage the most sustainable model of purchasing and consumption.
In Power Play we are working with households from 75 smart-meter and appliance-monitored homes to explore, through experimental methods from social psychology and behavioral economics, the impact of community on household energy decisions: can knowing about the behaviour and decisions of others in your community encourage you to make energy decisions that are more financially and environmentally-sustainable in the longer term? The project’s findings will feed directly into a workshop with invited experts from NGOs and industry, where we will unpack the implications of revealing the hidden operational costs of domestic appliances to consumers: does data on the lifetime costs of owning an appliance affect the consumer’s relationship with appliance manufacturers and retailers? How is this data best presented to consumers, and by whom? Finally, we will integrate our findings on the impact of revealing both the hidden costs of appliances, and the behaviour of the community, into working prototypes of new products and services driven by energy data to be tested with real households. By evaluating these prototypes in the real world, we aim to provide actionable feedback to relevant industry and policy makers on the feasibility of harnessing energy data from homes to enhance consumer purchasing, and on leveraging notions of community to encourage consumers to make beneficial energy decisions.
In March 2013 I gave an interview to Radio Nottingham to mark the start of the project:
In September 2014 results from the project will be presented at Behave conference.