Interdisciplinary Study of Energy use and Activities

Dr Phil Grunewald (School of Geography and the Environment)

Dr Phil GrunewaldDr Phil Grunewald
Understanding the timing of energy demand is becoming ever more important. The uptake of renewable sources of energy, such as wind and solar, is accelerating and systems have to accommodate their sometimes volatile outputs. Much hope rests on electricity storage and flexible demand to assist in this challenge. However, little is known about the social patterns and activities that drive the daily ups and downs of energy demand and much less about the most effective means to change such patterns for the benefit of low carbon energy provision.

This project combines engineering and social sciences to better understand the nature of demand and its flexibility. Aside from several methodological advances Grunewald and his team have developed two innovative physical instruments: 1) an electricity recorder which households can easily self-install and 2) an app which makes the recording of activities easy and enjoyable.

The data from 100s of households provides fascinating new insights into household activity patterns and their implications for energy consumption.

Grunewald is particularly proud of the calibre and disciplinary breadth of the people involved, which is so uniquely possible in Oxford. Grunewald collaborates engineering (system flexibility), computer science (app development), sociology (time-use) and philosophy (ethics of energy data and intervention).

Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council