Illustration showing a house, meter reader for energy, a light bulb, a piggy bank, an energy bill and a calculator.

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UK energy bills: More than 2,000 people to take part in £1.3m project trials aimed at saving cash and carbon

Five new product trials focused on saving the nation cash and carbon are set to run across the UK with the help of designers from Loughborough University.

Headshot of Dr Tracy Ross.

Dr Tracy Ross, the research lead for Loughborough University.

The project, headed by energy supplier EDF, will see more than 2,000 people testing new tariffs and energy solutions.

The trials, which will start recruiting in April and run for several months, encompass various initiatives:

  • 1,000 participants will engage in consumption-shifting schemes, potentially earning free electricity by reducing peak consumption during weekdays
  • Social housing occupants will receive solar panels and storage solutions, with potential excess electricity sold back to the grid and the money passed onto the occupants
  • Two electric vehicle charging initiatives will be implemented, one investigating tariff flexibility and automated controls to optimise charging rates for participants. The other exploring export tariffs and bi-directional charging, enabling the redirection of power stored in EV batteries back to the home and, if there is excess, the grid
  • A new heat pump tariff will also be tested; it will provide participants with advice and automation so they can maintain their homes at temperatures which suit them, whilst saving cash and carbon by avoiding high-cost peak hours.

With the global push towards achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050, electricity usage is expected to surge in the coming years. Estimates suggest that electricity consumption in the UK will rise by 50% by 2036 and double by 2050.

The project – supported by £1.3 million in funding from the UK Government’s Department for Energy Security and Net Zero – aims to demonstrate the impact on consumers and the electricity grid based on conditions projected for 2030.

The trials will discern which products and services will reduce the country’s carbon footprint, bolster the grid amidst rising demand, and offer savings to the public on their energy bills.

Understanding that innovative ideas will only succeed in the market if they consider people’s needs, researchers from Loughborough University’s School of Design and Creative Arts will gather crucial insights from trial participants throughout the project.

“All of the energy concepts will be new to the householders”, says Dr Tracy Ross, an expert in people-centred design of service innovations and the University’s research lead.

“Habits, lifestyle, attitudes and the design of the information provided could all affect how the trial participants respond to the interventions.

“Understanding these will help us to determine what works well and what needs to be changed if these interventions are to be used to maximum benefit in the future energy system.”

Philippe Commaret, Managing Director of Customers at EDF, says it is "crucial" that we explore new ways to reduce pressure on the grid and people’s pockets.

He said: “Trialling new tariffs and assets and giving customers greater control will be vital if we are to achieve our goal of reducing the need for fossil fuels and truly achieve net zero homes.”

Other project partners include Indra Renewable Technologies, Brighton & Hove City Council, and the University of Sheffield. More project information can be found on the EDF website.

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 24/37

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines. 

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme and named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2023 QS World University Rankings – the seventh year running. 

Loughborough is ranked 7th in The UK Complete University Guide 2024, 10th in the Guardian University League Table 2024 and 10th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024. 

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’, and in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 over 90% of its research was rated as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally-excellent’. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes. 

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.