Big data and AI to unlock energy savings and help UK achieve its net zero ambitions


Office buildings with lights on at night
New AI and data science tools will recommend ways to slash energy consumption

Lancaster University researchers will lead on the development of a new arsenal of artificial intelligence and data science tools that will unlock massive energy savings and help UK businesses in their goal of achieving net zero.

Developed as part of a £1.6 million programme funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, part of UKRI, these cutting-edge algorithms will automatically and continuously sift through a deluge of data, finding new insights and recommending ways to slash energy consumption.

Crucially, these new tools will be designed and developed to be transferred across a wide range of business sectors and organisations, and across different buildings and infrastructure. This will pave the way for the 'digital replication' of energy efficiency savings, and a viral spread of the knowledge and techniques across sectors.

This multi-disciplinary programme, called ‘Net0Insights’ draws on Lancaster University’s Data Science Institute, bringing together researchers from School of Computing and Communications, Mathematics and Statistics, and Lancaster Environment Centre.

Researchers will benefit from a rich corpus of real-world data sets provided by key industry partners, including BT, Tesco, and innovative energy saving technology specialists Best.Energy.

Currently, this avalanche of different forms of data is too great for people to identify useful patterns manually – something this project aims to overcome by making analysis cheap, repeatable and routine.

Professor Adrian Friday, Head of Lancaster University’s School of Computing and Communications and one of the Principal investigators on the programme, said: “I’m really excited about this new collaboration – I believe digital technology and data has huge potential to help us and our partners achieve net zero. This is part of the digital infrastructure we will need nationally and internationally if we’re to help organisations change how they operate to be more sustainable. It’s great to have such a strong and committed set of collaborators, and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can achieve together.”

Paul O’Brien, AI, Service, Security & Operations Research Director of project partner BT, said: “As an organisation, BT is committed to becoming a net zero carbon emissions business. Understanding and learning from our energy data is a key part of this journey. We are therefore delighted to be a key partner on this important research programme, working with a university that is committed to helping us tackle one of the most pressing problems of our generation. Given Lancaster University’s outstanding track record of successfully linking world-class research to real life problems, we are confident that this project can help make a positive step forward.”

Troy Wrigley, CEO of Best.Energy, said: "Energy data is the absolute core of what we do. We have seen time and time again, across a broad range of sectors, the power that energy data visibility can have. It is powerful and it is necessary; perhaps as much as 43% of all energy produced is classified as 'avoidable waste'. We cannot allow that to keep happening, if we are going to truly combat the Climate Emergency. 

"Our own team are working hard to promote and drive the under-exploited potential of energy efficiency around the world. This project is hugely exciting for us, and will help us to address some of the critical obstacles that are holding that work back - like the currently significant costs around data analysis.” 

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