* re-posted, as the formatting messed up the first time…
Sorry this took me so long to get down. I found that my problem was
that I knew
how I’d go about designing a good energy display, but there’s a
that and what the government should be setting as minimum standards –
the evidence is still developing.
- starts -
= General Comments =
In general there is a lot of thinking still to be done by Government
in this area. Displays could lead to significant behaviour change, but
only if they are popular with people, and if the information they
communicate is clearly and effectively designed. This thinking should
be driven by the specific behaviours that Government wants to
encourage in this area. Which appliances and behaviours should be
The knowledge in this area is growing quickly and will continue to
grow. Is there scope for the software that determines how the data is
displayed to be remotely updated as this knowledge develops? This
could be achieved via the GSM communications that the smart meter uses
to communicate with the energy supplier. In this way the latest
knowledge from behaviour science could be rolled out easily, and the
displays would retain a degree of novelty with the users.
Government could encourage innovation in this area by using the CERT
regulations as a test field. If the carbon cost of a real-time display
could vary according to the display’s effectiveness at encouraging
behaviour change, suppliers would be incentivised to keep innovating
in this area, and the growing body of evidence could be used to
improve smart meters displays.
= Q12 Do you agree with the Government's position that a standalone
display should be provided with a smart meter? =
The energy saving due to smart metering is achieved on both the supply
side (by metering data that enables the supplier to manage loads more
effectively) and the demand side (by feedback that enables individuals
to alter their behaviour).i The latter is also provided by real-time
displays (albeit to a lower standard due to measuring inaccuracies)
which therefore provide a useful evidence base.
The most authoritative review of providing this feedback shows that it
enables and encourages people to save between 5 and 15%ii in
electrical energy. This real-time feedback differs from that given via
bills because it is given very soon after the occupant’s actions. This
is essential to encouraging behaviour changeiii, enabling them to
understand the link between their behaviour and their home’s energy
consumption. To provide smart meters without feedback would be to
completely neglect the opportunity of making the crucial demand-side
The Government’s decision to u-turn on the issue of real-time displays
contained in their own energy white paper of 2007iv was made on the
basis that “a standalone real-time display should be provided with a
smart meter if the full environmental and energy efficiency benefits
are to be generated from a roll out smart metering.”v To renege once
again on the issue of providing feedback would clearly demonstrate
that the Government is more interested in pacifying energy suppliers
than taking action to mitigate climate change.
The displays provided should be standalone (ie. portable). The current
problem with standard electricity and gas meters is not that they do
not give feedback, but that the feedback they give is given in the
wrong place (e.g. in a meter cupboard) and it is given in the wrong
way (e.g. difficult to read digits). The purpose of giving feedback is
to enable and encourage behaviour change, and although one behaviour
is to encourage people to monitor their consumption over a long time
(for which a meter-mounted display might be suitable), many other
behaviours can only be changed if feedback is available at the point
of use (e.g. while using an oven)vi.
For the above reason, giving feedback solely via a television,
computer software, website will not encourage behaviour change
effectively. Although portable feedback could be given via a mobile
phone, this would probably only appeal to a niche market and fail to
engage the large populations required.
Notwithstanding the above, the communication between the smart meter
and the display should be according to an open standard, to allow
interested individuals to develop their own way of using the feedback
data, possibly leading to more innovative ways to encourage behaviour
In general, the knowledge of how the design of energy displays can
most effectively encourage behaviour change is developing rapidly. The
Government’s role should be to ensure that feedback is given in the
right place and in the right way – but to do this by setting minimum
standards rather than prescribing exact details. Smart meters can
communicate via GSM or broadband, which means that as the knowledge of
how displays can be most effectively designed to encourage behaviour
change, the software that the meter uses to display the data could be
remotely updated to create more effective information architecture
(this could also ensure that people remain engaged with the display).
= Q13 Do you have any comments on what sort of data should be provided
to consumers as a minimum to help them best act to save energy (e.g.
information on energy use, money, CO2 etc)? =
Providing feedback is not enough (as the example of standard
electricity meters that provide feedback with tiny digits shows), the
feedback data must be provided in a way which can enable and encourage
energy-saving behaviour change. The main information design options
for energy displays are helpfully characterised by Wood & Newboroughvi
as (i) the selection of motivational factors, (ii) the units of
display, (iii) the methods of display, and (iv) the timescales of the
(i) One effective motivational factor is to provide comparative data.
Three of the most promising of these are to; (a) allow the home-owner
to compare the energy consumption of one appliance with another
appliance, (b) allow comparison of their current energy consumption
with their historical data, or (c) to allow comparison of their energy
consumption with other people’s energy consumption.
(a) Displaying the energy consumption for individual appliances (or at
least the main ones) should be a minimum standard for energy displays.
Home-owner’s knowledge of the relative energy consumption of various
appliances is poor. Various papersvii have recommended that feedback
must show the relative consumption of each appliance, and we strongly
support this view. Other research shows that giving feedback is more
effective when feedback is given on the individual components of a
systemviii. This standard need not be technically difficult to
implement or costly to install; at least two companies in the UK own
technology that allows individual appliances to be identified from
just one point of contact.
(b) Another minimum standard should be the ability to compare current
energy consumption with historical data. evidence
(c) A third possibility is to allow people to compare their energy
consumption with that of others. There is clear evidence that allowing
people to compare themselves to a social norm (e.g. the average energy
consumption in their area) would encourage them to save more energy
(combined with a social congratulatory message to prevent an unwanted
“rebound” effect)ix, however other evidence also suggests that people
might mistrust feedback of this sort because of the traditional
difficulty in measuring energy accurately enoughvi. The accuracy
problems would presumably be resolved with the greater accuracy
provided by smart meters.
Another motivational factor is giving people the ability to use the
display to set goals or targets for reducing energy consumption. This
has been shown to effectively encourage behaviour changex and
reduction in energy consumptionxi, and should be a minimum standard
for the displays.
A third motivational factor considered is the ability to give rewards…
The final motivational factor recommended is the provision of
customised energysaving tips which would be given in response to the
data collected. This would be most effective if the meters were able
to identify the energy consumed by the individual appliances.
(ii) The units of display have been the subject of much discussion,
but little practical evidence. The obvious options are kilowatt hours
(as standard electricity meters), financial cost, or units of CO2. A
possible problem with financial cost is that the small numbers (pence,
or grams of CO2) may discourage and de-motivate behaviour change. It
is also technically difficult to accurately represent the CO2 involved
in different actions. In general, using kilowatt hours is recommended
because they are the true units and can be accurately measured.
For some appliances (e.g. those with few settings, like lights or a
television) it may be more appropriate to display the length of time
that an appliances has been onvi in addition to the energy it has
consumed. Also discussed by some has been the possibility of
displaying the data in terms of environmental degradation (e.g. sea
level rise) – this would be technically difficult and no evidence on
the effectiveness is known of, but would be an interesting field of
(iii) The method of display is also important. The evidence from
billing suggests that graphical methods of communicating the data are
more effective than displaying digits. The type of graph chosen will
vary according to the data – e.g. whether the display is showing
historical data over time periods (a time-series) or a snapshot of
appliances in the house (a bar chart).
The standard ISO 9241-12 “Ergonomics of Human System Interaction” may
provide relevant information on clarity of information presentation…?
(iv) The displays must be capable of displaying data in near real-
time. It would be unnecessary and unwelcome to require all the data
measured to be communicated to the energy supplier, but in order to
effect some kinds of behaviour change (e.g. while using appliances
with little automation and many possible settings, like cooking),
feedback must be given soon after the behaviouriii. The screen should
refresh every second to provide this real-time feedback. To encourage
other sorts of behaviour (e.g. engaging people in the long term
monitoring of their home), the screen should be able to show data
collected over months or even a year (as mentioned above in point i).
= Q14 Do you have comments regarding the accessibility of meters/
display units for particular consumers (e.g. vulnerable consumers such
as the disabled, partially sighted/blind)? =
(I don’t think I can contribute much here)
i G Owen, J Ward, Smart Meters: Commercial, Policy and Regulatory
ii Darby, 2006
iii Ammons 1956; Van Raaij & Verhallen, 1983
iv Department of Trade and Industry, Meeting the Energy Challenge A
White Paper on Energy, 2007
v BERR, Changing Customer Behaviour, 2008
vi Wood & Newborough, Energy-use information transfer for intelligent
homes: Enabling energy
conservation with central and local displays, 2006
vii M.L. Dennis, E.J. Soderstrom, W.S. Koncinski, B. Cavanaugh,
Effective dissemination of energy related
information, American Psychologist 45 (10) (1990) 1109–1117.
W. Kempton, M. Neiman, Energy Efficiency: Perspectives on Individual
Behaviour, American Council for
an Energy Efficient Economy Series on Energy Conservation and Energy
Policy, Washington, DC, 1987.
G. Wood, M. Newborough, Dynamic energy-consumption indicators for
domestic appliances: environment,
behaviour and design, Energy and Buildings 35 (2003) 821–841, 2002.
viii J.W. Senders, M. Cruzen, Tracking Performance on Combined and
Compensatory Pursuit Tasks, Wright
Air Development Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio,
ix P. Wesley Schultz, Jessica M. Nolan, Robert B. Cialdini, Noah J.
Goldstein, and Vladas Griskevicius,
The Constructive, Destructive, and Reconstructive Power of Social
Norms, Psychological Science, 2007
x S. Harkins, M. Lowe, The effects of self-set goals on task
performance, Journal of Applied Psychology 30
xi L.T. McCalley, C.J.H. Midden, Energy conservation through product
integrated feedback: the roles of
goal-setting and social orientation, Journal of Economic Psychology 23