Oriel’s Professor Charlie Wilson and Dr Phil Grünewald have won a major grant to help understand and accelerate changes in household energy use. Dr Grünewald, Lecturer in Engineering at Oriel, will co-lead the Oxford side of an £8.7m collaboration between the University of Oxford and University College London (UCL) aimed at helping the UK to meet its net-zero ambitions.
The Energy Demand Observatory and Laboratory (EDOL) is a five-year programme, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC, part of UK Research and Innovation) and working with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), that will establish a national energy data platform to help facilitate the transition to net-zero carbon emissions.
Schematic outlining the Energy Demand Observatory and Laboratory project
Energy use in homes is responsible for almost a fifth of UK carbon emissions, and is the biggest driver of increased energy demands during the peak winter period. If the UK is to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, domestic energy will have to stop using natural gas and transition to a low-carbon solutions. However, there is currently little information on how this will impact patterns of energy usage, and whether this will overlap with other changes to the UK’s energy system, including the increased uptake of electric cars and heat pumps.
Dr Grünewald and his colleagues’ work with the EDOL will address this by providing a high-resolution data resource that will track energy use in real households, helping us to gain an understanding of how, why, and when domestic activity is impacting energy demand and associated carbon emissions. This work has become increasingly urgent in light of recent global energy prices.
EDOL will consist of three elements:
The University of Oxford will lead on instrumentation and analysis, and qualitative research, overseen by Dr Grünewald and Dr Tina Fawcett (School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford), who will lead on the social research aspect of the project. Oriel’s Jackson Senior Research Fellow in Energy, Professor Charlie Wilson, will take on a consultative role in the EDOL, having played a key part in the successful funding bid. Professor Tadj Oreszczyn (UCL Energy Institute) is the Principal Investigator for the project and he and his team at the UCL Energy Institute will be leading on data collection, analysis, and governance, as well as overall management of the project.
“This collaboration will be unique in providing a detailed, longitudinal resource of UK domestic energy use which will be available to scientists, industry, and policy-makers.” – Phil Grünewald
The project is the culmination of many years of innovative research into household energy use by Dr Grunewald. As a Frank Jackson JRF at Oriel he developed novel data collection tools and most recently with support from the MCS Charitable Foundation, he pioneered his smart meter based data analysis methods to understand when and why households use energy most.
Speaking of the ambitious programme Dr Grünewald said: “EDOL will raise evidence-based policy making to a new level, by providing a scientifically rigorous demand observatory. This collaboration will be unique in providing a detailed, longitudinal resource of UK domestic energy use which will be available to scientists, industry, and policy-makers. The research will be dynamic, able to respond to a fast-moving technological and policy landscape, and will enable us to propose cost-effective smart data solutions and innovation in real-time and at scale.”
Dr Fawcett added: “EDOL is a really important, long-term investment in energy demand research, which will enable us to understand current and future household energy use as never before. The experiments with EDOL households will allow us to explore who benefits or loses from different social, technical, and economic energy interventions. This will help provide the evidence we need to create a just energy transition.”
Dr Grünewald (right) and Dr Fawcett (left) are leading the Oxford side of the project
Dr Grünewald is one of a growing cluster of Oriel academics whose research is focused on climate change and recovery, from biodiversity and conservation and the modelling of polar ice-cap melting to carbon neutral energy policy and sustainable economics. Dr Grünewald is part of the Oriel Environmental Group, consisting of Oriel academics from a range of Oxford University departments. The group shares inter-disciplinary insights and supports the College’s own decarbonisation and biodiversity gain.