Measuring and Evaluating Time- and Energy-use Relationships (METER)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Environmental Change Institute SoGE

Abstract

METER addresses a fundamental research question: "What is the temporal relationship between electricity consumption and household activities?". To date this relationship is still poorly understood. METER will address this gap by collecting electricity consumption data in parallel with time-use information using adapted smart phone technology.

A detailed understanding of 'what electricity is used for', especially during peak demand periods, is important in addressing emerging system balancing challenges and to develop appropriate policy frameworks and business models leading to the cost effective integration of low-carbon generation.

At present electricity is supplied based on a 'predict and provide' paradigm - so long as we can forecast 'how much' electricity is required at any one time, the fleet of mostly fossil fuel based plants can be scheduled to deliver. Little knowledge about the end-uses of energy has been required for this approach. With low carbon sources, such as nuclear, solar and wind, more flexibility may be required from the demand side. Understanding the end use activities supported by electricity becomes more important when seeking to reduce or shift the timing of consumption.

Studies attempting to measure electricity use at the appliance level have so far been limited in their scale by the cost and complexity of instrumentation. The absence of statistically robust consumption data has been noted as limiting the UK's world leading research in this area.

METER develops a new approach to collect electricity consumption in parallel with time-use information. Smart phone technology, developed by colleagues at Oxford, will be deployed to measure electricity consumption at 1 second resolution and ask participants about the activities they undertake at critical times of the day. The use of smart phones allows this process to be performed at unprecedentedly low costs, such that over 2000 households can be included in the study. This scale is important, because electricity uses are highly diverse and only a sufficiently large sample allows to develop statistically significant evidence for researchers and policy makers.

The concurrent collection of time-use and electricity consumption can improve the accuracy of time-use research and provide new insights into the use and timing of electricity consumption and its relationship with household activities. The data and the analytical tools developed by METER will provide much needed insights into the timing of electricity uses, which can underpin a wide range of future research priorities. Among them are emerging energy system balancing challenges and broader policy challenges relying on statistically robust information about the relationship between energy use, demographics, lifestyles and their transitions over time.

Findings and insights from METER trials will become publicly available as part of a public outreach campaign, including interactive online tools to explore how Britain uses its electricity and what the public can do to support the transition towards a lower carbon future.

Planned Impact

Research (immediate): End-use energy demand, network and storage research; Time-use research

- METER outputs will benefit ongoing energy research directly. Especially research under EPSRC's End-Use Energy Demand theme will gain a new source of data and methodologies for their implementation into existing and future models, thus alleviating a present shortage of consumption data. The outputs will ease the reliance on small datasets or deemed assumption about the composition of electricity demand. This also benefits related energy research disciplines, such as network studies (at low voltage level as well as for national grid and interconnects) and studies on the integration of storage, who rely on reliable load profile information.
- Time-use research will be advanced by developing and applying new methodologies and techniques for diary collection. The cross-disciplinary combination with time resolved electricity consumption profiles allows for more targeted, effective and therefore accurate collection of time-use information.


Research (indirect): Economists, Medical-/ Social science

Time-use research has an unusually wide range of applications and the inclusion of electricity consumption can only widen this. WS3 will seek new links, such as:
- Economists may be interested in the relationship between economic activity and electricity consumption types
- Medics can learn from activity/ health/ comfort level and consumption relationships (including for fuel poor subsets)
- Social scientists could gain new insights and definitions of fuel poverty and advance our understanding of socio-demographic relationships with different types of electricity use


Commercial private sector

Several small and large scale businesses may benefit directly (from outputs) or indirectly (from longer term outcomes).
- National Grid and small demand focussed businesses, such as Pilio and Moixa have already expressed their interest (see letters of endorsement). They can use METER data directly to calibrate their models and to better understand their clients. This also applies to distribution network operators, who increasingly have to manage loads to ensure voltage stability.
- New business models could emerge from the research results. Should, for instance, a particular user profile lend itself to effective load shifting, service providers can target these and create economic value through new forms of energy service provision.


Policy makers (local, national), regulators

- National policy makers have difficult choices to way up, while attempting to create a 'level playing field' between highly diverse options, including flexible generation, storage and demand response. METER will make significant advances in providing policy relevant evidence on the potential scope and limitations to the exploitation of demand response resources through different policy approaches.
- METER will benefit local authorities/DNOs/Ofgem in planning network capacity requirements for expanding communities more accurately.


Wider public

1) Thousands of participants will receive their personal load profile, which raises their awareness of the relationship between their activities and electricity consumption.
2) Results will be made publicly available in an interactive and engaging way on the project website. Publics can explore these and gain insights into their own uses of energy.
3) The above mentioned new business models for energy service provision, which may emerge from this research, benefit all customers. Those most able and willing to provide load shifting, provide a service of wider societal value, because the cost of electricity provision can be reduced and security of supply increases. Being able to identify and target initiatives on the most able response providers maximises consumer surplus and is thus economically more efficient than indiscriminate approaches.
METER thus contributes to the UK's low carbon future ambitions.
 
Description The Meter Study discovered (and keeps discovering) how diverse the use of electricity use is across UK households. This is important, because we tend to design energy policy for 'typical' users and fail to recognise that different groups may respond more or less well to certain policies.

We have developed a comprehensive set of tools and methods to undertake research into household use of electricity, including
- an innovative self-administered electricity recorder for households
- an app-based collection of activities performed by each household member
- a database infrastructure and online portal to collect and share these data.
Exploitation Route We are only 18 months into a 5 year project. A lot of the data collection is still ahead of us. The biggest impact is expected when we have sufficiently many households in the sample to draw statistically significant conclusions and share pre-compiled data for further research.
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Energy,Environment,Retail,Other
URL http://www.energy-use.org
 
Description It is too early for the data itself to be used to influence debate or practice. However, the methodology itself and gained traction as a way to engage the public in energy issues. The dominant narrative with which policy tries to engage on energy issues is 'kWh' and 'cost'. Our research is already showing that participants are very engaged to talk about energy in the context of 'activities'. Community groups have used our study to engage their members and to start a conversation about energy.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Education,Energy,Environment
Impact Types Cultural,Societal
 
Description Evidence to Select Committee
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
Impact Gave evidence on the need for flexibility in future energy systems and made three specific policy recommendations on: 1) removal of regulatory barriers to storage in the form of BSUoS charges 2) classification of storage in its own right (not as generation) 2) a market mechanism to encourage system beneficial dispatch of renewables
URL http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/energy-and-climate-change...
 
Title Activity led electricity analysis 
Description A new approach to the understanding of electricity use in households combining time-use research methods with electricity recordings. The combination of a newly developed activity recording app and a dedicated electricity recorder allows for a direct interrogation of the relationship between societal patterns of activity and the shape of the resulting electricity load profiles. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2016 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Collection of new data from over 150 households (ongoing). 
URL http://www.energy-use.org
 
Title Data visualisation 
Description An interactive online visualisation of household electricity use alongside activities. Implemented in JavaScript/D3 for feature rich engagement with users 
Type Of Material Data analysis technique 
Year Produced 2016 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Every study participant is sent their personal profile. In many cases these trigger an exploration of the underlying patterns of electricity use (which is one of the aims of the study). The profiles are publicly accessible and form part of the study outputs. 
URL http://www.energy-use.org/yourdata/
 
Title Electricity recording app 
Description An Android app to record household electricity use with one second resolution. 
Type Of Material Data handling & control 
Year Produced 2015 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The app has been deployed to over 200 households to record electricity use. 
URL https://github.com/PhilGrunewald/DMon
 
Title Meter App 
Description An interactive mobile app to collect everyday activities and personal information from study participants 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2016 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The app has superseded the collection of activities with paper diaries. It thereby overcomes a number of issues Methodological: - app improves time-stamping accuracy and encourages 'live' completing (improved accuracy), whereas paper diaries fail to record when (belated) entires are made - interactive response to circumstances (prompting targeted questions) - reward scheme (stars) to encourage good participation (30% increase in submissions over paper diary) Processing: - the app avoids the need for transcription of diaries (cost saving for study > £5000) - unambiguous coding of activities + context 
URL https://github.com/PhilGrunewald/MeterApp
 
Title Meter Interface 
Description An interactive Python interface acting as a hub for processing research equipment and data. It interacts with - Android measurement devices (push configuration and apk, pull data) - The database (interrogate status of participants and data, update and modify entries) - The web-interface (post interactive visualisations of data) - Participants (via automated personalised emails) 
Type Of Material Data handling & control 
Year Produced 2016 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Primary impact is to enable the research project to run smoothly and efficiently. It may be worth noting that the level of automation achieved with this interface has avoided the need for administrative staff to perform many of the repetitive task of a large scale participatory study. 
URL https://github.com/PhilGrunewald/MeterInterface
 
Title MySQL database 
Description The Meter database combines multi-variate data of different levels of sensitivity. It includes - Participant contact details - Household survey data - Individual survey data - Individual activity data (incl. location, enjoyment and ancillary information) - Household electricity data (in 1s, 1min and 10min resolution) - Views for fast access to activity/electricity relationships 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2016 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The database forms the backbone of the Meter Study. It was designed to enable easy and direct access to the non-sensitive parts of the data, while keeping personal data secure. The database structure is publicly documented and published. 
URL https://rawgit.com/PhilGrunewald/AdminInterface/master/_build/html/_static/MeterDatabaseIntro.html
 
Description Bioregional participant recruitment 
Organisation BioRegional Quintain
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Contributed to newsletter
Collaborator Contribution Promoted the study and actively encouraged local residents to take part
Impact Study participants (valued at £30 per household - recruited well in excess of 15)
Start Year 2015
 
Description Good Energy participant recruitment 
Organisation Good Energy
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution None
Collaborator Contribution Promoted the study to the customer base
Impact Recruitment of study participants. An exact figure in not possible to quantify. I estimated the value of each participant at around £30 and we recruited at the very least 10.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Oxford Sparks Animation 
Organisation University of Oxford
Department Oxford Centre for Diabetes Endocrinology and Metabolism (OCDEM)
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Ideas and content for an animation script
Collaborator Contribution Management and production of an animation Supplementary material for schools Promotion of the study
Impact A youtube video summarising the study in 2 minutes. Nearly 1000 views in the first few month, despite not promoting it (because the study got immediately oversubscribed)
Start Year 2016
 
Description Pilio 
Organisation Climate-KIC
Department Pilio
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We delivered electricity recording devices to their clients and potential future partners.
Collaborator Contribution Guidance on software development development of electricity recording hardware improvements and new modules for electricity recording software
Impact Improved software to record household electricity use with one second resolution A customer friendly electricity recording device that is now field tested and proven Deployment of the device to over 150 UK households
Start Year 2015
 
Description Scriberia promotional material 
Organisation Scriberia Limited
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Paid for animation and illustration material
Collaborator Contribution Produced promotional material
Impact The video animation (http://www.energy-use.org) proved a key recruiting tool for study participants (over 100 within weeks of launching the video) The Christmas animation got positive feedback on Twitter and via direct email
Start Year 2016
 
Description UKERC enegagement 
Organisation UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC)
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I attended and presented research methods of the METER project at the UKERC annual assembly in Leeds. Wrote a blog and other material
Collaborator Contribution Promoted the study to a large and targeted mailing list Promoted the study to prospective participants Supported the recruitment of a data scientist position (would be nice to add more than one URL - here is another: http://www.ukerc.ac.uk/news/stopping-the-lights-going-out-oxford-researchers-launch-the-meter-study.html) Established contacts with key UK research partners
Impact Exposure to UK research community resulting in possibly 5 invitations to give seminars and collaborate Recruitment of participants for the study
Start Year 2015
 
Description A day with the Department of Energy and Climate Change 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Presented to a delegation from the Department of Energy and Climate Change as part of an all-day visit to the University of Oxford.

Stimulated discussions of the appropriate approaches to stimulate demand side response.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Community engagement 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Trial event for a new game developed as part of this grant.
The game simulates an electricity constrained street and participants have to negotiate which appliances to keep on at the risk of overloading the local feeder and be left with no electricity.
On this first occasion the game was played with cards.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.agileox.org/event/power-struggle-neighbours-whats-when-good-neighbours-become-good-energy...
 
Description Energy Colloquia series 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Co-organised a series of colloquia on a broad range of energy issues, typically attended by 50-80 people.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017
 
Description Expert meeting on Decarbonising Heat 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact An expert meeting under the Chatham House rule with influential participants. My role was to organise and coordinate, participate and engage.

Event raised the importance of heat as 'the elephant in the room' of energy policy.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Expert meeting on Grid Scale Storage 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Co-organised, and presented at an invitation only expert meeting under the Chatham House Rule with influential and high profile participants from industry, politics and academia.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.energy.ox.ac.uk/wordpress/events/expert-meetings/
 
Description Expert workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact 30 senior representatives for academia, policy and industry took part in an Expert Workshop to challenge the proposed fellowship approach.

The event provided stimulating discussion that are highly valuable for the strategic orientation of the Fellwoship. Over half the participants continued the discussion over dinner.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Meeting with Argonne NL 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Meeting with a high level delegation from Argonne National Labs on storage and other collaboration opportunities in the area of demand response.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Online game prototyping with experts 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Expert group of academics (could not find them as a possible audience above).
Feedback on an online game to simulate a group of households having to negotiate in a competitive gaming environment how best to stay within electricity supply constraints.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.energy-use.org/neighbours/StreetName.php
 
Description Online game with community group 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A group of participants in the CEGADS (Innovate UK) project met to play the online game developed to simulate a situation where households in a street have to negotiate which appliances to keep on (at risk of overloading the local feeder and face blackout).

The game tested the relative value placed on the importance of appliances and practices. It also stimulated a very engaged debate over the length to which some people are willing to go to 'do the right thing'.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.energy-use.org/neighbours/StreetName.php
 
Description Organised an afternoon with Mainstream RP 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Organised a meeting of professionals from Mainstream RP with Oxford students with an interest in a career in renewable power. The event resulted in several students enquiring about possible jobs in the sector.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Seminar at Exeter 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Seminar on invitation by the Energy Policy Group - discussed methods for data collection on demand side flexibility.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Seminar at Imperial College 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Talk on invitation about career development and my research on demand response and storage to a group of MSc students on the Sustainable Energy Futures course.

Followed by lively debate on the role of AI, smart technologies and PhD opportunities
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Seminar at Sussex 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Seminar on invitation to an audience of energy researchers and post-grad / doctoral students
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Seminar at UEA 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Seminar to energy researchers and doctoral students on invitation as part of the UEA ENV Social Science series
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Sustainability First workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Discussion of "Smart domestic electricity pricing - what does fairness look like ?" Brought up challenging new concepts of where the burden of balancing the system falls
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016