Reluctance to share data about personal energy use is likely to be a major obstacle when implementing ‘smart’ technologies designed to monitor use and support energy efficient behaviours, reports a paper published online in Nature Climate Change.
Increasing energy efficiency and encouraging flexible energy use are integral parts of plans to reduce the UK’s greenhouse-gas emissions. Demand-side management (DSM) systems use technology such as smart meters, which transmit information about energy usage from the demand- or customer-side to energy companies. This information can then be used to develop and implement more energy efficient practices. However, it is unclear how UK consumers feel about the benefits of DSM.
Alexa Spence and colleagues analysed responses to an online survey of 2,441 UK residents and found that most participants (58%) said they were willing to reduce their personal energy use. However, approximately a fifth of survey respondents said they would be uncomfortable sharing data about their personal energy use with any outside party. Those concerned about climate change were more likely to accept DSM, while those concerned about the cost of energy were less likely to accept various DSM scenarios, including timed shut-offs for electronic devices and allowing electricity network operators to make decisions about the most efficient times of day to run appliances like washing machines and fridge-freezers.
The results suggest that to encourage public acceptance of DSM, the government should emphasize the environmental benefits and allay concerns about the policies increasing the cost of energy.