2,000th home joins the Living Lab - shaping the future of energy

  • Energy Systems Catapult welcomes 2,000 homes to the Living Lab – a real-world testing environment for clean tech innovators spanning in-home technologies, energy services, and policy and market innovations.
  • The Living Lab has played host to innovators such as Amp X, arbnco, Sunamp, AirEx, and UK Power Networks, providing a space to test, trial, and develop their products and services.
  • The Whole Energy Systems Accelerator (a partnership with PNDC) extends the Living Lab’s capabilities to real-time, whole systems testing of interactions between homes, energy networks, and market and policy frameworks, across a range of potential future energy system and market scenarios.

Over 2,000 UK households have volunteered to join Energy Systems Catapult’s pioneering Living Lab and open their doors to the clean technology innovations that will help over 28 million homes in the UK to reach Net Zero.

First opened in 2017 with just 100 homes, the Living Lab provides a real-world test environment, where innovators can rapidly design, market-test and launch cutting-edge energy products, services, and business models.

Energy Systems Catapult has welcomed volunteer households (known as ‘Labbers’) from a variety of property types across the UK – from mid-terrace houses, to blocks of flats – and has 1,358 digitally connected homes in England, 549 in Scotland, 110 in Wales, and 22 in Northern Ireland. The West Midlands and the South East of England are the regions with the most homes in the Living Lab.

Living Lab Homes - Energy Innovations

Living Lab Homes - Energy Innovations

Test and development

The Living Lab has played a leading role in the testing, development, and understanding of clean tech innovations and their impact on consumer behaviour. In addition to the quantitative assessments of a product or service, the Living Lab’s consumer insights team is able to qualitatively understand how consumers felt about using an innovation and its impact on their day-to-day lives.

Scottish innovator arbnco trialled a new digital air quality platform with consumers in the Living Lab with the aim of reducing indoor air pollution, improving ventilation, and safeguarding health. Meanwhile, Amp X, has trialled its digital energy assistant ‘ALICE’ in 60 Living Lab homes to better understand how homes can reduce their energy costs and carbon intensity.

Dr Irene Di Martino, Head of Amp X said:

“Consumer engagement is a key barrier to demand–response as a scalable non–wire alternative. Energy Systems Catapult’s analysis helped us validate what features of our solution work best for different user–types and properties to help sell the benefits to the consumer market.”

Accelerating low carbon living

Thermal storage manufacturer Sunamp has received £9.25 million from the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero to develop and trial its advanced thermal storage system in Living Lab homes across the UK. With the Living Lab connected to our Whole Energy Systems Accelerator (WESA), Sunamp will test the benefits that its heat battery technology brings to the wider electricity network, utilising real-time data on real-world household behaviour.

More recently, UK Power Networks – as part of the Neighbourhood Green Project – made use of WESA to monitor energy use by homes with low carbon heating technologies such as heat pumps and panel heaters. Engineers compared real-life data from 60 Living Lab homes with a model of a ‘one in 20’ freezing winter. Insight provided will help UK Power Networks to plan its interventions more efficiently.

Ian Cameron, head of customer services and innovation at UK Power Networks, said:

“It’s our job to make sure that our customers are able to connect low carbon heating easily and quickly, whenever they choose to do so. Neighbourhood Green is helping us gain valuable insight so we can plan ahead to make sure they have that choice.”

Becky Sweeney, Business Leader – Homes at Energy Systems Catapult said:

“A new idea or whizzy bit of kit may work well in a test lab, but we want to know if it really makes a difference – to real people, with real demands on their time, and real budgets.

“Our pioneering Living Lab is helping the UK’s clean tech innovators to unleash their creativity and advance technologies that place our journey to Net Zero at their heart, without losing sight of the needs of the end-consumer.

“With over 2,000 digitally connected homes – and more and more households showing their interest every day-, there is no better place for clean tech innovators to test, trial, and develop their products and services in a real-world environment”.

How does the Living Lab work?

Homes are connected by a digital integration platform to the Catapult’s trial curators, ensuring the Living Lab is digitally open, interoperable, and scalable. This allows innovations to be tested in real-world conditions alongside those existing mainstream technologies that households are slowing acquiring – such as smart meters and heating controllers.

The homes in the Living Lab play host to a variety of existing technologies which can be used to test clean tech innovations.

The Living Lab includes 391 homes using solar panels, 174 with battery storage, 223 with a heat pump, and 483 homes with an Electric Vehicle and a charger.

What is the Whole Energy Systems Accelerator?

The Whole Energy Systems Accelerator (WESA) is a world-first energy innovation test and evaluation facility, combining the Living Lab – with PNDC’s unique power networks demonstration facility. WESA enables interactions between homes, energy networks, and market & policy frameworks to be tested in real-time and across a range of potential future energy system and market scenarios.

Living Lab

Quick, safe and affordable. Rapidly design, market-test and launch innovative energy products, services and business models with real people in over 1,000 connected homes.

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