Taking Charge: Perceived control and acceptability of domestic demand-side response
Mike Fell, UCL
Domestic electricity demand-side response (DSR) programmes aim to influence when electricity is used in people’s homes, the better to balance it with supply. In the UK, this is important in permitting anticipated increases in electricity use that growth in electric heating and vehicles will bring, as well as greater penetration of intermittent (low-carbon) forms of supply such as wind energy.
Demand can be managed by alerting consumers to periods of high demand (through price signals or other means) in the hope that they will shift their demand to other times, or by directly controlling services such as heating/cooling and appliances such as fridges in people’s homes. However, research has indicated that some people have concerns about the possible reductions in their personal control that they perceive such approaches could entail. These concerns may lead to lower participation, less opportunity to match demand to supply, and constrain the transition to a low-carbon energy system.
Studies into people’s acceptance of DSR have tended not to rigorously define “control” or to explore it in detail with participants. While it is clear that some consumers are worried about losing it, it isn’t clear:
- what precisely they are worried about losing control over,
- why they perceive this as a problem,
- which aspects or antecedents of control (e.g. trust, choice, knowledge, usability, etc.) in particular are leading them to be concerned (and why),
- if and how this differs significantly between grousp of people (and why), and
- what could be done to lessen their concern, or give them less reason to be concerned in the first place.
Improving our understanding in these areas should make it possible to design, target and communicate DSR programmes in such a way as to minimize people’s concerns about any perceived reduction in control, and therefore maximize the likelihood of participation (at least in respect of control).
The project employs a mixed methods approach to answer these questions. A series of exploratory focus groups were used to inform a survey experiment which will be carried out during the course of 2014. Outputs will be posted here as they become available.
In case of interest, the following video is a sonification (or representation of data through sound) of UK electricity demand in January 2013.