Category: Research

METER – insights into the timing and flexibility of electricity usage

METER is a national research project to understand what we use electricity for. And anyone can take part.


This study asks thousands of UK households to submit a one day record of their activities. During this day their electricity use is also measured minute by minute.

The combination of activity and electricity data can gives valuable insights into the timing and flexibility of electricity. METER data is intended to help with the development of new approaches to reduce demand at critical times, while avoiding inconvenience for users. METER will test different forms of incentives and interventions to establish an evidence base for load shifting against a statistically robust baseline.

This becomes especially important when trying to make better use of variable renewable sources of electricity. By identifying a load shifting potential of only 1kW (half the power of a washing machine) in 1% of UK households, the national cost saving could easily exceed a quarter of a billion pounds.

The scale of the project is made possible by the innovative use of smart phones.

Here is an example of my (Peter Bates) household’s energy usage on 21/22 September 2016. (Note we do have Solar PV and did not use the washing machine that day). You can clearly see the peak usage during the cooking of the evening meal.


More information on the METER Project and take part in the research.


Get the latest METER Project newsletter Autumn 2016

Energy survey raises concerns: people think they know more about energy issues than they really do

A nationally representative survey of 2,058 British adults conducted by ComRes on behalf of the National Energy Foundation throws light on how much the British public really knows about energy. Most significantly, only a quarter (23%) of British adults were able to identify the policy that scientists say is the fastest and most effective way of meeting our energy needs (using less energy) by reducing energy demand and improving energy efficiency.

National Energy Foundation logo

Other significant findings include:

  • Only half (50%) of those surveyed correctly identified which type of light bulb uses the least energy (LED) and 35% incorrectly thought that low voltage halogen lights use the least.
  • Only one in ten (11%) adults say that they know how much energy their workplace uses; while eight out of ten believe that private employers (79%) and the government (76%) should provide training and education to teach the public to use energy more efficiently. This compares to the six in ten (57%) who believe that technology will solve our energy problems.
  • Although three in five British adults (58%) say they feel well-informed about energy issues, the same proportion (59%) also don’t know that the majority of the UK’s electricity supply comes from fossil fuels.

The survey was commissioned as background to the launch of the National Energy Foundation’s Working together towards an energy-literate UK programme.

The headline survey findings are available here.

The detailed survey findings are available here.

Powering the nation – UK household electricity-using habits revealed

This in-depth UK Household Electricity Use Study aimed to cover the electricity usage of a representative sample of English owner-occupier homes. The report was jointly commissioned by Energy Saving Trust, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). Its results are summarised in the report “Powering the Nation”, provide the richest insights ever produced in the UK into how people use the electrical products that power their lives.

The report uncovers a number of surprises, mostly unwelcome ones:

  • The power consumption of appliances on standby is much higher than we thought.
  • Single-person households – over 29 per cent of all UK households – use as much, and sometimes more, energy than typical families for cooking and laundry.
  • We really are a nation of television watchers – not almost five hours a day but an average of more than six hours a day, costing us an an extra £205 million a year across the UK.
  • We love to keep our clothes clean. We run, on average, 5.5 washes a week; and if we have a tumble dryer, 81 per cent of our washing is dried in it.
  • We spend more on keeping our crockery, glasses and cutlery clean than we do on our clothes. Anyone with a dishwasher uses on average nearly twice as much electricity for this as they do for their washing machine.

Powering the nation shows how much we need to do to reduce our energy use in the UK and work towards a low-carbon future. Not only do we need to use less power, we also need to use power differently and at different times, altering our behaviour to reduce the ‘peak load’ demands on the grid. This will become even more crucial in the next decade, when there’s more decentralised and renewable power in the electricity mix, and we need to power the next generation of electric vehicles.

More details

Download summary Report

The impact of occupant behaviour and use of controls on domestic energy use

This review was commissioned by the NHBC Foundation to examine previous research and knowledge on occupant behaviour and user interface design in homes.  An extensive literature review was conducted and information was also gathered from experts at BRE.

The review published in March 2012 examines how energy is used in the home and how the way people behave affects their energy consumption.  It explores the factors that affect energy use in the home and looks at the ways in which energy consumption can be reduced.  In particular, the review examines the importance of providing guidance, feedback and information to occupants, and the role of in-home displays such as smart meters.  It investigates behavioural science theories for changing behaviour and how these have been applied to energy use behaviours.  It also examines the differences between energy efficiency and energy conservation and asks if energy-efficiency measures go far enough to tackle energy reduction.

Occupants control the energy used in a home through controls and user interfaces.  These controls and interfaces can influence occupant behaviour.  The review, therefore, goes on to explore the influence of controls and user interfaces on domestic energy use.  It explores findings from previous research into how occupants typically use controls, their level of understanding and the information provided with controls.  The review also compares automated and manual control systems in dwellings and their advantages and disadvantages.

The review then explores future user interfaces and ‘smart homes’.  It examines how occupants will interact with future homes and what interfaces they are likely to use.  It highlights where smart home systems might add value and possible barriers to the widespread roll-out of smart homes.  It also examines recent consumer research on the latest low energy homes and outlines the concerns of consumer groups about the technologies and interfaces installed in these homes.

Research has shown that changing occupant behaviour will allow more energy to be saved than is possible through architectural and technical strategies alone. Differences in individual behaviour can produce large variations of more than three times the average energy consumption, even when differences in housing, appliances, heating, ventilation, air conditioning and family size are controlled for. It is, therefore, vital that more work is done to understand occupant behaviour and how to alter it to minimise wasted energy
and ensure energy is used efficiently.

More details and the Full Report