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The University of Oxford is launching a five-year METER project to help us better understand what we use electricity for, especially at peak times. They are asking householders across Britain to keep a 24 hour record of what they do, everything from putting on the washing machine or kettle to watching TV.

A government commission set up to look at the UK’s future needs for nationally significant infrastructure recently reported that up to £8.1bn could be saved if we became 'smarter' about electricity, including use of electricity at down times rather than at peak times.

The project launched today with the release of a short online animation ‘Power People’ (http://www.energy-use.org/vid/intro.mp4), which explains how reducing or shifting some of this load would make our energy system cheaper, more secure and allow for a more sustainable use of electricity. The film says that at times of peak demand, households make up half of the nation’s electricity usage

Researchers from the University are behind the project to find out how much households can realistically change their habits but first they need to know how households currently use electricity.

‘We are inviting thousands of UK households to fit a special electricity meter and to record activities for one day only, using a diary or a smartphone app. We want to find out what they are doing at the times when national demand peaks,’ said Deputy Director of Energy Research and Principal Investigator of METER at the University’s Environmental Change Institute, Dr Phil Grunewald.

Anyone who wants  to take part can go to the project website: www.energy-use.org. They need to fill in an online questionnaire and will receive an electricity recorder to install in their home, as well as a personal activity leaflet. Research participants will also get the chance to have their names put in a draw to win a year’s free electricity.

Up until now, little has been known about what appliances and activities lead to the high demand during the most critical periods.  The Oxford research team will use the data to build a picture of patterns of electricity use in the UK in order to identify new approaches to shift or reduce electricity usage in ways that are acceptable to the public.

Dr Grunewald, said: “This is an exciting opportunity for everyone to get a picture of their own electricity use, while contributing towards one of the big challenges for our energy future and make sure that the lights stay on.”

Professor Jim Watson, Director of the UK Energy Research Centre, which is a partner organisation for the METER project, comments: 'We still don't know enough about the social, economic and behavioural drivers of electricity consumption in our homes. This exciting new project will significantly improve knowledge about the opportunities and limits to change, and help us identify new approaches to shifting or reducing consumption'.

This research is led by the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford and is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). Partner organisations include the Department of Energy and Climate Change, the National Grid, UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC), Dynamics of Energy, Mobility and Demand (DEMAND), Bioregional, Moixa, Pilio and Linköping University.

To find out more or to register to participate in this trial visit the project website www.energy-use.org