The funding was part of £2.2 million in grants awarded under the Energy Industry Voluntary Redress Scheme, which are payments distributed from energy companies who may have breached rules. Projects must “support energy consumers in vulnerable situations”.
The Enabling Inclusive Innovation and Sustainable Choice programme will work with disabled and older consumers to deliver new research and assets that support the development of innovative, accessible smart and low carbon energy products and services, and to inform consumer and policy decision making. RiDC, which has a pan-disability consumer panel of over 2,500 people will deliver the research through a programme of six insight and test evaluation projects, including co-design workshops, accessibility and usability evaluations and mystery shopping.
This includes adding 50 new households with disabled consumers to Energy Systems Catapult’s Living Lab – a safe and affordable test environment of over 250 homes helping innovators rapidly design, market-test and launch smart energy products, services and business models.
“We plan to invite 50 new households to join the Living Lab from RiDC’s existing consumer research panel of 2,500 disabled and older people” said Dr Rose Chard and Rebecca Sweeney, Energy Systems Catapult. “This will expand the capability of the Living Lab to provide a facility for innovators to work with disabled consumers in a supportive environment to design energy related products and services that meet their needs. The aim is to ensures that smart, low carbon energy innovations that will become a key part of UK efforts to reach Net Zero will be accessible to a wider range of consumers.”
This upgraded capability will help the programme deliver a combination of six test or insight projects, including:
A study on running field trials with disabled consumers, providing insights that explore the support or adaptations which should be put in place, when running trials with consumers who have mobility, visual or hearing issues.
A study – including developing co-design solutions with Living Lab participants – exploring how the increasing electrification of heat and transport could result in new vulnerabilities emerging. Giving particular consideration to identifying potential changes to how those on the Priority Services Register might be best served.
“The energy transition to zero carbon must be inclusive and equitable, and that is unfortunately not what we have seen in much of our research into the accessibility of energy services and products so far” added RiDC’s Head of Development, Caroline Jacobs. “This project will be the first time that disabled households have used and tested home energy products and services in their own home on a long-term basis. Our aim is to fill in the knowledge gaps on emerging vulnerabilities that are still creating barriers for disabled and older people – such as the accessibility of charging an electric vehicle at home. Successful innovation and inclusive design require a whole system approach and user involvement, and we look forward to working alongside our consumer panel to develop action plans for the solutions to these issues.”
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