Solar stories: prosuming and energy resilience

The Centre on Innovation and Energy Demand (CIED) Communications Team crossed the train tracks to attend a talk at the University of Brighton Falmer campus hosted by Boingboing, an organisation providing opportunities to learn about resilience. This time their Resilience Forum featured a speaker from SPRU, Dr Nicolette Allen, who was invited to talk about energy resilience.

Nicolette, who recently finished her Phd at the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU), looked at the way solar panels installed in one of the most disadvantaged communities in the South East, have changed the practices of seven families over the course of a year. She made a video about her findings which she also showed at the talk.

People living in fuel poverty can feel powerless to do anything about their situation, often having to prioritise cooking a meal for the family over heating their home. Watching the prepayment energy meter constantly and worrying about running out of power on a daily basis is not only disempowering but can be incredibly damaging to people’s mental health.

By receiving the solar panels, these families were able to take control of their energy use and their finances by becoming ‘prosumers’: producing and consuming their own energy. The project showed how much energy consumption is embedded in everyday life and how it is not straightforward to become a prosumer at all. Certain practices, like cooking the children’s meals, could not be adjusted to when the sun was shining. They were part of the family routine that needed to be maintained. Others, like putting on laundry, were more flexible.

Nicolette found that prosuming was transformational in some cases. Not only were the families able to save money, they became more engaged with their energy use and some of them even tried to implement changes in other areas. It is moving to hear their thoughts on the experience and how much difference it has made to their lives.

Resilience is often defined as “Beating the odds whilst also changing the odds”. These families did just that.


Nicolette currently leads a project on water sustainability and affordability. Find out more about her work.

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