Oxford Brookes University academics win a top award for sustainability research during lockdown

Thursday, 22 October 2020

SEEDS award news pic 2

Two Oxford Brookes academics have won an award for research into household energy use during lockdown - revealing how energy consumption can be dramatically reduced through the introduction of smart energy systems. Professor Rajat Gupta and Senior Research Fellow Matt Gregg from the Low Carbon Building Research Group at Oxford Brookes University, have won the Best Paper award at the international Sustainable Ecological Engineering Design for Society (SEEDS) conference 2020.

Their paper titled Performance of distributed energy resources in three low energy dwellings during the UK lock down period examines household energy use and performance of low carbon technologies in Yorkshire, during the Covid-19 lockdown. The research study is part of a five-year €4.2 million EU funded project - Zero Plus on zero energy settlements.

The dramatic drop of over 95% in electricity use during the peak period in these homes with solar panels and smart batteries has wider implications as more people work from home - the numbers have nearly quadrupled in the last 20 years, even without the Covid-19 lockdown. This means that more energy is being used at home instead of in the office.

Professor Rajat Gupta, Low Carbon Building Group

The research found that the use of smart home batteries coupled with rooftop solar panels, resulted in over 95% reduced average direct grid consumption during peak hours. The estimated cost benefit to homeowners using smart energy systems in the study ranged from annual savings of between £260 and £438.

The study explored the change in daily energy use and performance of distributed energy resources (DERs) such as electro-chemical batteries, during the Covid-19 lockdown period from 23 March 2020 to 31 May 2020. Three houses in an eco-development in York, were occupied continuously by families during that time. They had identical heating systems (district heating), rooftop solar panels and home batteries (14kWh). The energy use, generation and charge-discharge of the batteries were monitored every five minutes using remote sensors. 

Houses with solar panels

Professor Gupta commented:

The dramatic drop of over 95% in electricity use during the peak period in these homes with solar panels and smart batteries has wider implications as more people work from home - the numbers have nearly quadrupled in the last 20 years, even without the Covid-19 lockdown. This means that more energy is being used at home instead of in the office.

Also our future energy system will be smarter, more flexible and ultra-low carbon to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. In order to meet this target, part of the solution as shown in the study, is the widespread deployment of domestic-scale electricity generation and smart battery storage.

Earlier this year, Professor Gupta and Matt Gregg published a state of the nation report which showed for the first time, a detailed national picture of the actual performance of new build homes.

Previously Professor Gupta was academic lead of an Innovate UK funded project titled ERIC (Energy Resources for Integrated Communities) that trialled distributed storage in a cluster of homes in Oxford.

Find out more about the work of the Low Carbon Building Research Group, in the Oxford Brookes University School of Architecture

Pictured Left: Matt Gregg and Right: Professor Rajat Gupta of the Low Carbon Building Research Group