Description: Reshaping Energy Demand of Users by Communication Technology and Economic Incentives

PI: Dr Muhammad Imran, University of Surrey

Fund: £1.15M TEDDI Longer

Project lifespan: Oct 2010 to Dec 2013




The overall objective of this research is to Reshape Energy Demand Using ICT (REDUCE). We approached this aim by evaluating the feasibility of using network technologies and sensor devices to study the potential impact on user behaviour in terms of reductions in, and shifts in patterns of electricity consumption. Additionally, the project aims to quantify the reduction in carbon footprint (and operational energy cost) when such digital technologies are deployed.


Data was obtained through a number of methods. Questionnaires and interviews were used to capture qualitative/quantitative data. To study the use of communications technology as part of the project’s aims, we developed a sensor network testbed which was constructed and deployed at the University’s Centre for Communications Systems Research, which consisted of a number of Persuasive Energy Network (PEN) units. These units are capable of measuring the energy consumed, presence, light levels, noise & temperature at each desk where a PEN unit was installed.


Two distinct case studies were undertaken as part of the REDUCE project. The first was a trial conducted in an office setting with more than 150 PEN’s being installed at individual office desks. The goal was to study the participant’s energy usage behaviour, with some of the participants given the opportunity to receive feedback through a widget installed on their desk computer.

The second was a trial conducted in a residential setting consisting of ten households. During this trial, we explored financial incentive approaches to reducing peak electricity demand in the home. This was the first study on the use of specific financial incentives for load-shifting (as opposed to the introduction of new tariffs) in the residential sector.


We found that at least half of the electricity consumed by office PCs is when people are not at their desks. As much as 73% of electricity consumption by office PCs could be saved and, if all were switched off when the trial participants head home for the evening, an estimated £60,000 could be saved annually.

For the residential trial, peak reductions as large as 27% were observed when reductions in energy use are also taken into account. As a result, the proportion of off-peak usage rose from an average of 30% to more than 40%. Although this was only a small-scale study, and further research is needed, this suggests that this incentives-based study was able to overcome some of the barriers to participation and response seen in Time-of-Use studies, although this was not solely due to the payments on offer.

Key outputs

This project has generated more than 60 research outputs which are listed on the RCUK website. In particular, we have published 6 journal articles (and 6 more under review), 10 conference proceedings, three of which won the conference’s ‘Best Paper Award’. See website for list of most pertinent publications.

Academic partners

University of Surrey: Centre for Communication Systems Research

Dr Mohammad Imran

Prof Rahim Tafazolli

Prof Barry Evans

Dr Alexander Gluhak

Dr W. Headley

Dr M. Nati

University of Surrey: Centre for Environmental Strategy

Prof Matthew Leach

Dr P. Bradley

University of Surrey: Evironmental Psychology Research Group

Dr Birgitta Gatersleben

Dr Niamh Murtagh

Prof David Uzzell