Can smart meters make us greener?

A smart meter
20 Sep 2011 15:10:43.150
PA 278/11

The Government wants every home to have one by 2020, but might the new generation of electricity meters help to change people’s attitudes to climate change?

An academic at The University of Nottingham is to argue that providing information about saved carbon emissions through the new smart meters could be more effective in persuading consumers to changing their behaviour than by demonstrating savings on their bills alone.

Dr Alexa Spence, an academic in the University’s School of Psychology and a research fellow at The University of Nottingham-based Horizon Digital Economy Research hub, is an expert in public perceptions of climate change and energy issues.
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She will be speaking at the two-day international conference Energy and People: Futures, Complexity and Challenges, jointly hosted by the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) and the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University and running from Tuesday September 20 to Wednesday September 21.

Dr Spence is due to begin a study examining the impact that smart meters will have on people’s perceptions of climate change. She said: “Providing customers with information on saved carbon emissions on these devices may be useful in helping to make climate change real and empowering people to make a difference.

“While people may be primarily concerned about energy prices, this is likely to encourage only certain changes in behaviour. Psychology theory suggests that talking about energy savings in terms of the environment may encourage people to undertake a broader range of sustainable behaviours.”

Smart meters are a new type of electricity meter that can remotely communicate with energy companies to provide accurate meter readings without the need for someone to come and physically read the meter. As bills are accurate it cuts out estimated bills or the potential for over or underpaying.

Dr Spence will be one of a number of energy and climate change specialists presenting at the conference this week, which aims to examine the complex relationship between energy and people, including the impact future energy practices will have on communities around the world. It will examine the links between society and energy use, particularly in the transition to a secure, affordable and low-carbon energy system.

Other papers being delivered at the conference will centre on topics including: whether people have a Jekyll and Hyde personality when acting pro-environmentally to save energy in the home compared to the workplace; a controversial proposal for energy charging whereby customers are limited to a maximum power they can draw at any one time; and the global impacts surrounding the increasing demand for transport biofuels.

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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham, described by The Sunday Times University Guide 2011 as ‘the embodiment of the modern international university’, has award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. It is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 75 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and the QS World University Rankings. It was named ‘Europe’s greenest university’ in the UI GreenMetric World University Ranking, a league table of the world’s most environmentally-friendly higher education institutions, which ranked Nottingham second in the world overall.

The University is committed to providing a truly international education for its 40,000 students, producing world-leading research and benefiting the communities around its campuses in the UK and Asia.

More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to the most recent Research Assessment Exercise, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranked the University 7th in the UK by research power. The University’s vision is to be recognised around the world for its signature contributions, especially in global food security, energy & sustainability, and health.

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More information is available from Dr Alexa Spence on +44 (0)7876 631793,; Amanda Berry, Marketing, Communications and Events Assistant at Horizon Digital Economy Research on +44 (0)115 823 2554,

Emma Thorne Emma Thorne - Media Relations Manager

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5793 Location: University Park

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