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Disabled households to take part in zero carbon energy innovation trials for the first time

Energy Systems Catapult in partnership with the Research Institute for Disabled Consumers (RiDC) has been awarded funding for a programme to Enable Inclusive Innovation and Sustainable Choice.

The funding of £242,713 was part of £2.2m in grants awarded under the Energy Industry Voluntary Redress Scheme, which are payments distributed from energy companies that 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.

Energy Systems Catapult’s Living Lab business lead, Rebecca Sweeney, said: “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.

“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 ensure 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.

RiDC’s Head of Development, Caroline Jacobs, said: “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.

“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.”

About Energy Industry Voluntary Redress Scheme

Energy Saving Trust has been appointed by Ofgem to distribute payments from energy companies that may have breached rules. Registered charities can apply for funds to deliver energy-related projects that meet the scheme priorities and benefit people in England, Scotland and Wales. Energy Saving Trust will be administering the scheme until 2022.

Round 11 of the Energy Redress Scheme totalled £2,207,992.36 and up to 15% of the funds can support the development of innovative products and services related to energy that have a realistic prospect of delivering benefits to existing and/or future energy consumers and that help to reduce the environmental impact of energy use.

Projects seeking support through the Innovation Funding Stream should involve:

  • testing or trialling the roll-out of products or services that are ready to implement but not yet accessible to energy consumers or certain groups of energy consumers
  • conducting research or analysis into the development of products or services not yet accessible to energy consumers or certain groups of energy consumers

About RiDC (Research Institute for Disabled Consumers)

RiDC is an independent, national charity working towards an inclusive and accessible life for all. As the leading expert in inclusive research with disabled and older consumers, it supports businesses, government and organisations to get the insight, knowledge and innovation they need to open their services and products to as many people as possible. RiDC is run by and for disabled people and has a pan-disability consumer panel of over 2,500 people who take part in research.

The organisation’s fifty years of experience spans many sectors and a diverse range of topics. However obscure, complex or simple the issue, it welcomes businesses wherever they are on their accessibility journey.

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