What is POWBAL?

As technologies continue to enhance our everyday lives, we are ever more reliant on electricity. As a result, ensuring we have reliable and clean electricity generation systems in the UK has become an important and challenging goal. One component of the solution is to make our electricity demand more flexible: if we can shift usage that is not time sensitive to times when the wind blows and the sun shines, supplying us with abundant clean energy, it will be cheaper to produce more electricity from such renewable resources. But how do we decide what is time sensitive and how do we shift usage?

Which electricity usage is time sensitive will vary from person to person. With the POWBAL project, we are beginning to understand which electricity usage households consider to be time sensitive and when electricity usage is more flexible.

Participants in POWBAL are provided a free smart plug which can be controlled and monitored remotely via the internet. We ask you to use this plug for electricity consumption that you deem non-time-sensitive (some examples are provided in the table below). For instance, you could use it to power devices with battery backup (e.g. laptops).

We will use the plug to measure the amount of time-flexible electricity consumption at various times, which allows us to form an understanding of the potential for shifting usage to times when the UK experiences an abundance of power from renewable sources. We do so by switching off the plug from time to time for brief intervals (which may also help you to save a little on your energy bills). If you do not override these switch-off events, that will show us that whatever you have connected to the plug is indeed not time-sensitive at that particular time. It is important to note that you will always be able to override such a switch-off event either manually via a button on the plug, via the online interface, or via the POWBAL app.

What happens once I sign up?

Once you have consented to participate, please feel free to connect your smart plug to any appliance of your choosing.Follow the steps given in the instructions manual in the plugs box to register the plug.Make sure to check if you are able to switch on/off your appliance by using your smart phone.You can then proceed to use your electrical appliance normally. The data collected from your usage behaviour and your response to switch off events of 30 minutes will help us understand the energy consumption patterns of a typical Indian consumer.

How long should I participate?

The Pilot study will be monitoring the user data for approximately 6 months and will be recording your behaviour vis a vis switch off events and daily appliance usage.If at any point of time you do not wish to continue the study,you can choose to leave the study and can choose whether your already collected data is used by us for analysis.You will receive regular support from our research team to help you participate in this study.A process of gradual phasing out of incentives will be followed after 13 weeks.

What are the benefits of participation?

In accordance to the number of points you get for adhering to the switch off events, you will be paid a sum of money ranging from 0 to 8000 rupees.In addition, you will get to keep the smart plug provided you attach it to an electrical appliance at all times.Your initial incentive might be paid in the form of a mobile recharge.

Which electronic appliance should I plug in via my POWBAL plug?

Consuming more power via the smart plug, by plugging your most energy-consuming time-flexible devices into the smart plug (examples below) increases your chances of energy points and reduces your monthly bill as well.Here below is an estimate of the energy usage and consequent costs of using certain appliances.We have assumed a tariff of 5.43 rupees per kwh.

Appliance or Electronic General number of hours used (assumed) Annual Units(KWH) General Usage Annual Units(KWH)Max(24 hours) Monthly Cost (KWH) Max Monthly Cost (KWH) General Usage
1 Ton AC - 2 ton AC 7 2,520 - 5,040 8,640 - 17,280 3,909.6 - 7,819.2 1,140.3 - 2280.6
24-82 inch LED/LCD Television 4 86.4 - 424.8 518.4 - 2,548.8 234.576 - 1,153.332 39.096 - 192.222
Air Purifier 17 183.6 259.2 117.288 83.079
Ceiling fan (48 inch) 22 633.6 691.2 312.768 286.704
Desktop Computer 5 810 3,888 1,759.32 366.525
Extractor/Exhaust fan 23 289.8 302.4 136.836 131.1345
Microwave 1 648 15,552 7037.28 293.22
Refrigerator 24 2160 2160 977.4 977.4
Treadmill 2 648 7,776 3,518.64 293.22
Washing Machine 0.2 93.6 11,232 5,082.48 42.354
Tariff rate assumed: 5.43 rupees per KWH

Beyond making a little extra money, through your participation, the team behind POWBAL will be able to learn more about enhancing energy efficiency in our community, helping you and those around you to save money while contributing to environmental improvements both locally and globally.

What do I do if my plug is not online?

If your plug is not online, please make sure that (i) it is connected to a socket that is switched on, and (ii) the wifi signal is strong enough near your plug (e.g., by connecting your phone or laptop to the wifi network and checking the strength near your plug) (iii) Check if your plug was registered properly and if needed re-register the plug.

What about privacy?

All data obtained from participants will be kept confidential and will only be reported in an aggregated and anonymized format. All questionnaires will be concealed, and no one other than the investigators and assistant researchers will have access to them. The data collected will be stored in a secure database. The primary purpose of the data collection is academic research, and all data collection and storage is in compliance with GDPR regulation.

Are there any risks to my involvement in POWBAL?

We do not expect any risks or discomforts to arise from participation in POWBAL. However, you can contact us any time at pausedemandindia@powbal.net if you experience any issues. This email address will be monitored daily.

Can I withdraw my participation if I change my mind?

Participation is completely voluntary, and you have a right to withdraw your participation at any time (or refuse to participate entirely), without penalty or consequences. If you choose to withdraw, you will be asked whether we can use your already collected energy usage data. If you confirm, we will include the data to continue to enhance our understanding of energy demand flexibility. Should you choose to withdraw your consent, we will delete your data from our files and permanently delete your consent form.

Will someone be available to help if I have questions or concerns during my participation in POWBAL?

Yes. You can contact us any time at pausedemandindia@powbal.net. If necessary, a member of the project team may be available to meet with you to discuss issues and concerns, as well.

Dighbijoy Samaddar
Dighbijoy Samaddar
Research Associate