EDOL will establish world-class Observatory of 2,000 representative GB homes with high resolution, longitudinal, technical and social data disaggregated to the level of activities, appliances, and occupants. Participant and data management is led by University College London. The instrumentation for this Observatory will be overseen in the Department of Engineering Science at Oxford. Only instruments that meet our requirements for cost, reliability, un-intrusiveness, scalability and privacy, will get deployed in the Observatory.
Laboratories complement the Observatory for evaluation of technologies, business models and policy interventions. These Laboratories are expected to be on a scale of 100-200 homes and give early career researchers an opportunity to lead innovative projects within the EDOL programme.
Data from Observatory and Laboratories will be curated by UCL, analysed and processed to be shared with academics, policy makers and practitioners. Unexplained energy demand patterns and other anomalies will be investigated in Forensic studies, with in-depth ethnographic instruments and in-person observations. This work is led by Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute. We use energy in our homes for heating, washing, cleaning, cooking, lighting, and powering our appliances for entertaining, socialising and interacting. Energy use is essential for our health, wellbeing, and comfort. However, domestic energy use is also responsible for almost a fifth of UK carbon emissions which have to come down to zero in the next 30 years. Energy use in homes is also the biggest driver of demand during the peak winter period which means it determines the amount, type, and cost of power generation capacity we need to have available to meet this peak. Currently, fossil fuels are often used to generate electricity to meet the extra demand for electricity during peak periods.
If the UK is to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 in line with national laws and our international commitments, we must reduce energy use in homes and stop using natural gas. Installing heat pumps and insulating homes will cost many billions of pounds when scaled up across the UK . This will happen at the same time as more electric vehicles are being charged at home, and more homes are generating and storing their own energy. It’s essential we understand how these complex and overlapping changes will affect the UK’s energy system. To use recent vocabulary, we need a ‘track and trace’ system for energy use in our homes, enabling us to understand how, why, and when domestic activity is impacting energy demand and associated carbon emissions. The data from smart meters help us understand these changes but it isn’t enough to understand the complex picture that will be emerging in the near future. To understand new technologies, policies and business models that are appearing all the time, we need a much higher resolution data resource. EDOL will provide this.
The UK has led the world in access to high quality energy data and its analytics. The EDOL programme will build on the multi-billion investment in smart meters and their communication system and utilise emerging Internet of Things (IoT) and AI innovations to help us understand how and why we are using energy in the home. EDOL will develop a range of innovative methods for monitoring not only the energy consumed by different appliances, but also the different energy-using activities that make up daily life at home. EDOL will then build a 2,000-home Observatory that is representative of the GB population of people and buildings. EDOL will monitor the energy used by occupants, their appliances and their behaviours. All data collected from people’s homes will be done so with the occupants’ informed consent. Data will then be anonymised and provided to researchers in a secure data portal for analysis to help understand and build better models of energy demand in our homes. In sub-samples of homes with uncertain, unexplained, or novel forms of energy demand (like smart charging of electric vehicles), we will undertake targeted ‘forensic’ monitoring to enrich our understanding.
Alongside the Observatory, we will recruit homes where new technologies, business models, policies and monitoring approaches can be trialled. These EDOL field Laboratories will allow us to answer novel questions: e.g., ‘How flexible is time when people charge their electric vehicles?’, or ‘Does installing a heat pump have unintended consequences such as increased tumble drying of cloths due to lower radiator temperatures?’. We will build several field Laboratories and support other academics, government and business who may want to commission their own. Having the Observatory alongside these Laboratories means that we can tell how big the effects are by comparing the treatment group (Laboratory) with our control group (Observatory).
We will work closely with government to maximise the benefit of our data and analysis to support progress towards a net- zero energy system. We will also support other researchers by facilitating secure access to the data we collect and the methods we have developed.