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The Social Life of Smart Grids

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Andrew Pruitt.

This will be based on the work that the Open University is undertaking as part of the Western Power Distribution Project FALCON Smart Grid project in Milton Keynes. “Smart Grid” systems are increasingly considered to be a critical component of a transition to a sustainable system of electricity production, transmission and consumption. Smart Grid designs seek to avoid costly upgrades by sophisticated energy management at a number of levels, down to that of the individual home. This suggests that Smart Grids must involve a blended socio-technical approach and vision.

Yet in practice, the ‘socio’ element receives little emphasis compared to the ‘technical’. There is a crucial issue of the role and active participation of users and enablers in the design and emergence of Smart Grid configurations as opposed to conceiving the user as a passive consumer (albeit accepting that they need to be ‘educated’ to use the resultant technologies).

Our current research provides insights regarding the way Smart Grid projects are constructed and the surprising partners who are now involved, including a brewery and a community media organisation. Smart grids may well need smart partners and user inputs to succeed.

This talk is part of the EPRG Energy and Environment (E&E) Series Lent 2013 series.

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