Policy and business – experiences of collaborating with DEMAND

James Davey Department of Energy and Climate Change
Michael Harrison Department of Energy and Climate Change
Sustainable Futures Team OFGEM
Mike Colechin Energy Technologies Institute
Albane Gaspard French Environment and Energy Management Agency
Sara Pasquier International Energy Agency
Association for the Conservation of Energy
Stevenage Museum
Matthew Lipson Energy Systems Catapult
Patricia Bonneau Institute for the Energy Transition, EFFICACITY
Dominique Bertin and Sarah Bee EDF Energy


James Davey, Department of Energy and Climate Change

DEMAND has provided DECC with new insights and new ways of thinking about the transition to a low-carbon economy. One particularly useful set of lessons was ways to think about how real people in real homes interact with their heating systems, and what this means for policies that seek to change the way we heat our homes. Given that decarbonisation of domestic heating systems is probably the most difficult challenge DECC faces in seeking to meet Carbon Budgets, this insight is essential to ensure the future of heat policy is grounded in reality.

Michael Harrison, Department of Energy and Climate Change

As a policy maker interested I evidence about pathways to carbon reduction, conversations with DEMAND researchers are always stimulating.

ChallengingMike Harrison collab preconceptions about the origins and drivers of energy demand, and exploring how broader systems and infrastructures shape how these play out, are potentially highly relevant to future policy and strategy development which needs to take a similarly broad perspective.

The centre is playing a valuable role in developing and communicating a wide-ranging agenda, which I believe will open up new ideas for policy intervention in the future.

OFGEMOfgem, Sustainable Energy Futures Team

Within Ofgem, our team is responsible for thinking about how the energy system is changing, and the implications of that change for current and future energy consumers. This means we think about how economics, technology, innovation and people interact, an approach which led us slowly but surely to Elizabeth Shove and the DEMAND Centre.

Since we found each other, we’ve spoken about the concept of the ‘Future consumer’ (and how that might inform our contemporary decision-making), we’ve written Conversation articles about the emergence of non-traditional business models and the shift from ‘products’ to ‘services’ in the energy sector, and we’re currently collaborating on re-conceiving notions of energy efficiency.

The key thing we’ve learned from our interactions with the DEMAND Centre is that the energy system is not set in stone, and that the logics, rules and axioms that appear absolute now are simply the result of previous societal choices (both planned and accidental) – which means future choices are up for grabs, and that we can and should think deliberately about what we want from the energy system of tomorrow.

Enegry Tech Institute Barriers and TransitionsMike Colechin, Energy Technologies Institute

Engaging with the DEMAND Centre has been a valuable experience.  Each time I do so I learn something new, and not just about how people engage with energy but also about how to deliver a lively and dynamic research environment.  For me, these engagements have reinforced the importance of taking an inter-disciplinary approach to energy research and confirmed a belief that I have had for a long time – the problems that we currently have in the energy sector are as likely to be resolved by social science as they are to have  technical, engineering solutions.  In particular, the understanding that the DEMAND Centre is creating around how and why people behave and the impact this has on the way that they use energy is going to be crucial if we are to find impactful and sustainable solutions to the challenges we face.

9318_EF_Albane Gaspard©E. Fradin_Ademe (2)Albane Gaspard, French Environment and Energy Management Agency

The research work carried out by DEMAND provides some knowledge which is crucial for policy makers. First, it helps us to understand the complexity of energy consumption dynamics. Indeed, the practice approach allows us to look beyond an individualistic perspective and grasp the social dimensions of what people do. As DEMAND uncovers all practices’ components, policy makers can articulate policy tools to tackle these various dimensions (competencies, representations, infrastructure…). Second, DEMAND’s research insights help us to better anticipate future energy demand, i.e. looking at how end use practices change over time is a key output to adapting policies to social change. Third, DEMAND’s approach contributes to widening the perspective on the “energy policy field” by drawing attention on the knock-on effects of other policies and how these should therefore be taken into consideration when thinking about an energy efficient future. It is only by grasping the complexity that underpins energy consumption that policy makers can develop and implement efficient policies, if we are to achieve targets related to Climate Change

Sara Pasquier, International Energy Agency

spasquierElizabeth Shove’s plenary speech at a 2015 International Energy Agency conference on energy efficiency sparked thoughtful debate among policy makers on how and why energy is used and how this use changes over time as a result of technologies and yes, even policies (and not necessarily energy ones)!

Engaging with DEMAND has helped me and other policy makers uncover hundreds of practices hidden just beneath the energy demand curves.

Bringing those practices into the light enables us to better tailor our policy responses (whether that be in the form of energy efficiency measures, urban planning, labour laws or health policies). Thank you DEMAND!

Association for the Conservation of Energy

frogMeeting and exchanging knowledge with DEMAND researchers has been mutually beneficial. DEMAND’s multi-disciplinary approach to understanding how people affect long-term trends in energy demand has been truly eye-opening for us, giving us a better understanding of where our work fits into the bigger picture. And we hope that in turn some of our insights into current buildings energy efficiency policy developments have been useful in informing DEMAND’s work.

Stevenage Museum

stevenage4It has been an enriching experience for Stevenage Museum staff and Volunteers to be able to provide research and outreach support for Nicola Spurling in completing her research in Stevenage at various times during 2014-15. Initially we were able to provide Nicola transcripts of the original oral histories about the winding down of the Stevenage Development Corporation in the 1980s and recently digitised as a part of the Talking New Towns project. The interviews are a part of our specialist New Town collections in the Museum. Further we were able to assist Nicola with space and contacts for setting up her own interviews.

In November 2015, Nicola came back and told us about the project and discussed the themes of the home and energy use at an event in the museum. We had an interesting afternoon with Nicola and her interviewees as well as members of the public.  People were given copies of the booklets created from the project.  These booklets will also be a part of our new New Town education pack which we will be sending out to schools in April.  Thanks for providing us with interesting discussions and events

If the Walls Could Talk – Daily Rhythms and Energy Use in Stevenage
If the Walls Could Talk – Central Heating Comes to Stevenage

Matthew Lipson, Energy Systems Catapult

Reflecting on my experiences of the DEMAND centre I’m struck by several things. Memorable in content, but also in style. A talk explaining how council planning shaped the patterns of historic demand and locked places into paths for their future broadened my perspective of what is possible. Attending the summer school enriched my understanding of what shapes energy practices. Reading about how long-lived infrastructure decisions have been made sobered my ambitions for detailed and highly skilled techno-economic analyses. Through engaging with the DEMAND centre I’ve formed relationships that have already culminated in collaborations – for instance loaning out sensors we’d acquired to a PhD student who couldn’t afford their own – which I would hope to bear more fruit in our shared future.

Patricia Bonneau, Institute for the Energy Transition, EFFICACITY

Journée de Développement du Réseau Chefs de Projet de Rénovation UrbaineDEMAND has provided us with enlightening new knowledge n the spatial and temporal analysis of human and social activities. The ability to understand timing and sequencing is extremely helpful and relevant for two of the EFFICACITY Institute’s projects. The first one stresses a new way to design multifunctional blocks and therefore is closely linked with how to pool areas; the other one aims to develop more efficient services in railway stations, and aims to provide a better understanding of how passengers use their waiting time, as an example. Moreover, the link established in DEMAND between end-use concerns and energy consumption correlate with EFFICACITY’s research on end-uses of energy and quality of life. Furthermore, research in DEMAND on adapting urban infrastructure to a low-carbon society, including commercial buildings and mobility is greatly relevant to our work. Dr Isabelle Moussauoui (socio-anthropologist at EDF R&D) has been involved both in DEMAND and EFFICACITY and has clearly helped to incorporate relevant outputs in our work. Finally, part of DEMAND devoted to “Normality, needs and entitlement” is helping us to think more about how to renew relations with local communities about the right to energy, access to energy, and the fight against energy poverty, which is also a concern for us.

Dominique Bertin and Sarah Bee, EDF Energy

D.BERTINEDF Energy is excited to be collaborating with DEMAND as the programme plays an important role in improving our understanding of how energy is, and will be used across our diverse customer groups. DEMAND helps us to learn more about how we can respond to our consumers’ changing behaviours and energy requirements, through improvements to our energy supply business. The dissemination events DEMAND provided for the different parts of the EDF Group both in France and the UK were extremely informative and inspiring, leading the way for new strategies and approaches in engaging with our customers.

In the near future, EDF Energy’s business units anticipate further valuable learning exchanges, especially around time of use research outcomes, which will inform our tariff development.