UCL Home

Mike Fell

Research Subject

Thesis Title: How does perceived personal control affect consumers’ acceptance of residential energy demand side management programmes?

Primary supervisor: Dr David Shipworth

Secondary supervisor: Dr Cliff Elwell

Residential energy demand side management (DSM) programmes aim to influence when energy is used in people’s homes, the better to balance it with supply. In the UK, this is important in permitting anticipated increases in electricity use that growth in electric heating and vehicles will bring, as well as greater penetration of intermittent (low-carbon) forms of supply such as wind energy. Demand can be managed by alerting consumers to periods of high demand (through price signals or other means) in the hope that they will shift their demand to other times, or by directly controlling services such as heating/cooling and appliances such as fridges in people’s homes. However, research has indicated that people have concerns about the possible reductions in their personal control that they perceive such approaches could entail. These concerns may lead to lower participation, less opportunity to match demand to supply, and constrain the transition to a low-carbon energy system.

Studies into people’s acceptance of DSM have tended not to rigorously define “control” or to explore it in detail with participants. While it is clear that consumers are worried about losing it, it isn’t clear:

· what precisely they are worried about losing control over,

· why they perceive this as a problem,

· which aspects or antecedents of control (e.g. trust, choice, knowledge, usability, etc.) in particular are leading them to be concerned (and why),

· if and how this differs significantly between demographics (and why), and

· what could be done to lessen their concern, or give them less reason to be concerned in the first place.

Improving our understanding in these areas should make it possible to design and present DSM programmes in such a way as to minimize people’s fears about any perceived reduction in control, and therefore maximize the likelihood of participation (at least in respect of control).


My research focuses on social aspects of energy use in buildings, in particular consumer acceptance on smart energy systems (see link above for more information). In previous work I have explored the role of home energy monitor loan schemes in primary schools, holding focus groups with children, their parents and teachers to gauge acceptance of such schemes and the potential for learning (experiential and intergenerational) to result.

From 2007 to 2011, when I joined the London-Loughborough Centre, I was the energy commissioning editor at Earthscan (a leading publisher of books and journals in sustainability). I worked on a wide variety of book projects in the fields of renewable energy, energy demand and sustainable architecture and also collaborated with organizations like the International Energy Agency and the United Nations to help publish the results of their research.

I graduated from the University of Southampton in 2004 with a BSc in Marine Science with French, which included undertaking a maîtrise in Environmental Science (Oceanography) at Bordeaux University.

Publications and Other Work

Academic publications

Fell, M., 2012. “What Role for Home Energy Monitors in Primary School Energy Education? A Pilot Study (summary and initial results)”. Postgraduate symposium on household energy consumption, technology and efficiency, University of Birmingham, UK. (Conference paper).

Fell, M. 2012. “What Role for Home Energy Monitors in Primary School Energy Education?” Agency 2012, University of Cambridge, UK, 2012. (Poster presentation)

Other recent publications

LoLo student Mike Fell recently attended the Agency Conference 2012 at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge

A brief account of the CLUES: Energy in the Locality conference which took place at UCL

UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) launch report on carbon capture and storage