16th August 2010, 10:33am
Gearing up to power down - HEFCE funded sustainable development project
elecromagnates logo Researchers at the University of Lincoln are piloting a study that could see desktop widgets and online social gaming help reduce energy usage in offices.

A team from the University’s School of Computer Science has received HEFCE funding for the project: Electro-magnates - Using social technology and gaming to positively affect energy usage behaviour in higher education and the local community.

The aim of the project is to make people think about how much energy they use and encourage practices that reduce it. A suite of social software applications including games and personal desktop applications called social widgets will show how much energy is being used. Individuals and groups can then make positive changes to their energy consumption behaviour, such as powering down computers, copiers and other equipment, switching off unnecessary lighting and using natural ventilation instead of air conditioning.

The University is collaborating with Lincolnshire County Council on the pilot project, which responds to findings of the PC Energy Report 2009. The report indicated that if the 17 million UK workers who regularly use a desktop PC powered it off at night it would reduce CO2 emissions by 1.3 million tons - the equivalent of removing 245,000 cars from the road.

The project is being led by Dr Shaun Lawson, a reader in the School of Computer Science. He said: “The recent PC Energy Report suggested that around a third of office workers in the UK do not always power off their PC overnight.

“We believe that allowing people to view – in a fun and readily understood fashion – their own energy consumption as well as that of peers, colleagues and other members of their social network or community, can have a direct influence on subsequent behaviour.

“There is still much to gain by exploring new ways of persuading people to adopt positive energy usage behaviour. This project will design, implement, and evaluate the effectiveness of a suite of social software applications – including simple social games - to encourage positive changes in group and individual energy consumption behaviour on campus and in the local community.”

The team will deliver desktop applications called widgets to work-place computers of employees of the University, Lincolnshire County Council and to students taking part. The widgets will be inspired by the success of interactive applications that can be delivered by online social network technologies such as Facebook.

Steve Golightly MBE, Senior Sustainability and Climate Change Officer for Lincolnshire County Council, said: “As many people have difficulty seeing the link between the appliances they use and energy consumption, the use of social networking technologies, especially in a fun way, is an excellent way of achieving this.

The project is one of 11 sustainable development projects in the higher education (HE) sector being supported via a HEFCE funding initiative ‘Leading sustainable development in higher education’.

View the 1E PC Energy Report 2009. online at http://www.1e.com/Energycampaign/Index.aspx
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