CLNR working paper: Social science overview
This working paper from the team at Durham University describes the approach to data capture and planned research activities for the Customer-Led Network Revolution project.
The Customer Led Network Revolution is a large interdisciplinary project with a focus on researching electricity supply and demand. The project is funded by Ofgem’s Low Carbon Networks Fund (LCNF). The core objective is to understand the nature of current and likely future electricity demand among households and small to medium sized organisations and to consider how, why and with what implications such demand might be ‘flexible’.
The project is made up of over 20 individual ‘test cells’, which can be thought of as a series of mini trials. Each test cell has a group of participants who have agreed to a particular ‘proposition’ featuring some combination of characteristics which might include a tariff, network intervention, low carbon technology and smart meter monitoring.
The project is using a range of methodologies across social and engineering sciences to study electricity demand, including a structured online survey, qualitative home or business tours, collection and analysis of smart meter data as well as monitoring ‘the wires’ at electricity sub-stations to detect operating conditions at the scale of a community. It is important when taking this approach to minimise the extent to which findings are influenced by the research team in advance. The qualitative instruments are designed to allow the drivers, interactions and ingredients of everyday practices to emerge from the data collected from the participants without imposing preconceived ideas about how practices are structured. This approach calls for less formalised or structured instrumentation and places more emphasis on the skilled interviewer to encourage the participants to elaborate on how and why they conduct their energy practices.
Tours of the participants’ premises are designed so that technologies and everyday items can act as prompts for the participant to discuss their practices. However, there are some key areas of focus which need to feature in each qualitative visit in order to ensure that results are comprehensive and comparable. The instruments prompts make sure that the interviews and tours cover these areas. These research activities will be integrated with engineering and mathematical analyses to create a significant and coordinated interdisciplinary contribution to understanding electricity demand.”