New paper suggests different energy management solutions for retail issues

New paper suggests different energy management solutions for retail issues

Working with Infrastructure Creation of Knowledge and Energy strategy Development (WICKED) is a UK-based two year research project on energy management in the UK retail sector, including landlords, tenants, and owner-occupiers.

Energy use in existing buildings is a major source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions – non domestic buildings account for approximately 18% of UK emissions - and there is significant potential for energy savings in retrofitting existing buildings. WICKED aims to broaden our understanding of the processes and constraints affecting change in energy use (and, by extension, emissions) for this type of building.

A recent paper, Shopping for Success: Numbers, Knowledge, Time and Energy, authored by Dr Kathryn Janda of Oxford Energy, the Centre's Professor David Wallom and Ramon Granell, and others, presents findings from the first 18 months of the project. Through cooperative research, WICKED investigates clusters of technical, legal, and organizational challenges faced by retail organisations, including those with smart meters and energy managers (the "data rich") and those without (the "data poor").

The paper provides a snapshot of the existing energy data and analytics practices of six corporate project partners, which include a multi-national department store, a home improvement chain, a café chain and an electronics retailer and landlords/managing agents.

The study uses quantitative data from partners along with interviews of staff, to provide new information on the organizational context of energy management. These cases show that data rich and data poor organisations are not a homogenous group and will need different energy management solutions to maximize their energy efficiency and behavioural opportunities. Smart meters will not solve everything – further analysis is needed to turn numbers into knowledge. The data rich may hire third-party experts to gain this knowledge. Data poor organisations, on the other hand, have fewer opportunities to engage staff with empirical evidence.

The study also found that, although there is a lot of room for improvement in the retail sector in terms of data, organisations and buildings, energy management is often not a top priority. Moving this item up the organisational agenda can prove difficult.

The paper concludes that there are two "solutions" which could help in resolving some of the issues across the retail sector, particularly in terms of energy accounting and accountability. Firstly, standardization of data identifiers and variables, and secondly, development of flexible smart(er) monitors to assist with new meter locations, participant education and engagement. Access to more data will help "data poor" firms, and "data rich" organisations could benefit from reviewing how they use the data they have, and whether additional meta-data is needed, along with detailed information at local (store/outlet) level. Better data and analytics can also highlight faulty information streams (eg from malfunctioning meters).

Analysing this complex landscape and its many opportunities and challenges requires a broad based, problem-directed and interdisciplinary approach. The WICKED team brings together expertise in social and technical aspects of energy demand, information technologies, mathematics, engineering and law. For more information see the WICKED project pages.