David Shipworth, Professor of Energy and the Built Environment (Energy Institute, University College London) and Chair of the User-Centred Energy Systems (a Technology Collaboration Programme by IEA)

"When social meets technical: the outcome is a question of design"
Users’ energy behaviours are fundamentally shaped by design. From the way distributed energy assets look and sound in their environment, through how information is presented on assets’ costs and benefits, through the choice-architecture governing participation in flexibility markets, to the design of user interfaces - the extent to which we permit, purchase, and allow assets to participate in the energy system is strongly shaped by design. Design determines the physical, informational, economic, and social choices users can make around energy - and conveys explicit and implicit messages around which choices are preferable.

While the role of design in shaping user behaviour is well understood in other sectors - it has been largely overlooked in the energy sector. Energy has been viewed as an invisible, homogenous, economically undifferentiated good competing only on price. The image of users in the sector’s mind has correspondingly largely been as invisible, homogenous, and economically rational actors. Designers (engineers) have largely filled this void with implicit images of themselves, designing products, markets and user-experiences that reflect their own interests.

Delivering a user-centred energy system requires transforming the image of the user in designers’ minds. To do this we need three things: designers that reflect the diversity of our users; designers from many disciplines; and designers versed in user-data. If social meets technical in a well-designed context the experience will be mutually beneficial – without it, there will be misunderstanding and mistrust.

David Shipworth is Professor of Energy and the Built Environment at the UCL Energy Institute and Chair of the User-Centred Energy Systems Technology Collaboration Programme by the International Energy Agency. His research focuses on ways to provide demand flexibility within the energy system and roles of consumers, regulators, and buildings in delivering these. He has a particular interest in local energy trading, time of use tariffs, and home energy management systems and the role of distributed ledgers. He speaks and consults widely in the UK and internationally on local energy trading - particularly on the design, conduct and evaluation of field trials for testing the consumer acceptability and response to different flexibility product offerings. 

He has been a consultant and advisor to the UK government and industry on smart metering over the last 15 years having done work for BEIS; SEGB; ETI; ESC; EdF; E.ON; SSE; UKPN; Bosch; PassivSystems; and other organisations focused on the role of users in the energy system. He is currently an investigator on around £20M in research grants in the Demand Side Management area including leading the synthesis workstream in the UK’s largest research programme on Smart Local Energy Systems.

Caroline Nevejan, Professor of Designing Urban with the Amsterdam School for Social Science Research, University of Amsterdam and Chief Science Officer of the city of Amsterdam

Prof. dr. Caroline Nevejan is a researcher and designer who has been involved with the emerging network society and digital culture since the 1980s. Nevejan is a regular presenter at national and international fora. She is an advisor to national and European policy makers.

Caroline Nevejan is professor by special appointment with the Amsterdam School for Social Science Research, University of Amsterdam. Her research is focused on Designing Urban Experience and she supervises 5 PhD candidates in this context (see tab underneath).

As of 2017 Caroline Nevejan has been appointed Chief Science Officer of the city of Amsterdam. The Chief Science Officer orchestrates research between the municipality of Amsterdam and the different scientific, academic and artistic universities in the city. With a small team she makes sure that civil servants and researchers can find each other and invent different new ways of working together. 

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