Avoiding energy poverty

Product Designers can help us avoid energy poverty


Christmas is coming and on most of our ‘wish lists’ there is bound to be an electronic device of some sort – mobiles phones, big TV, games consoles, smart tech products; the list of those products is endless and demonstrates how significant our dependence on electricity is today. 

Currently the electricity that makes our lives safe and convenient is mostly derived from fossil fuels and concerningly there are only so much of those to go around. At current usage levels, oil and natural gas are set to run out in the next 40 years but we all know that our global population is increasing at a staggering rate and with more people, comes more demand. We also live in a world that demands convenience where products wait in sleep mode to spring into action at the press of a remote or call of an app. These devices create a huge background demand on electricity because they are never completely ‘off’. 

If we don’t have sufficient capacity in our National Grid to cope with energy demand, the result will inevitably be black outs such as those the nation saw in the 1970s. Can we imagine how catastrophic that will be to our industries as well as our workplaces and personal households? 

The blame for this lack of generating capacity, in the UK at least, is a refusal by successive governments over decades to face up to the demands of an out of control demand on electricity and to plan for a capable infrastructure. Here in the UK our power plants are outdated and will be decommissioned one by one throughout the next decade with those planned to come online suffering cost over runs and delays. Staggeringly, there does not appear to be any realistic succession plan for when they go offline and yet we creep closer and closer towards this inevitability and resulting possibility of dealing with the reality of energy poverty. 

There clearly is a shared concern from energy providers. After the Government’s latest announcement that all new vehicles need to be Electric Vehicles (EV) by 2030, a report by the Distribution Connection and Use of System Agreement (DCUSA) warned that “electricity networks in Great Britain are not designed to accommodate the significant additional demand of certain consumer devices (such as EV chargers) presents”. This has resulted in new powers being sought to allow energy providers to essentially turn off high-drain devices when demand is too high. Not an ideal solution for a nation used to the convenience of having access to energy sources as and when they need them or being told to switch to EVs.  It literally could mean you wake up in the morning and your EV went uncharged overnight.

The real answers regarding energy generation and policies for fair use remain with governments but in the meantime we all need to assist in avoiding the very real threat of energy poverty and get more used to being a part of the solution. 

Product Designers can do our bit too by designing products with zero energy in mind. A movement towards smarter products with the ability to learn and then predict when they will be used by their owner will mean they can disconnect at an appropriate time rather than be on standby.

Or is there an argument for the return of the simple on/off switch? 


Let’s create something great together.

If you have got an idea for a great new product and want to consider how it can be designed with energy efficiency in mind, we will assist you through your journey. Even the most accomplished will require assistance which is where our expertise is invaluable. We work closely with all our clients to ensure they have all the support they need.