UCL Energy Institute


Trevor Sweetnam

Thesis title: Demand Response: Benefits for Domestic Consumers

Primary supervisor: Mark Barrett
Secondary supervisor: Catalina Spataru
Sponsor: PassivSystems
Start date: May 2012
Projected completion date: March 2017

Delivering on Government’s carbon saving commitments will require the decoupling of economic growth and carbon emissions. This will require a system where electricity supply is largely decarbonized, with a future generation mix which is likely to consist mainly of distributed, variable renewables and large in-flexible nuclear plants. These changes will present two central challenges for the electricity grid.

Firstly, it will be more difficult for the grid operator to match supply and demand while the national electricity demand and generation profiles both vary daily and seasonally. Secondly, the transmission and distribution networks will need to be upgraded and reinforced in order to cope with greater demand from heat pumps and electric vehicles and a significant amount of reserve, peaking generation capacity may have to be constructed.

Demand side response may offer a solution to these issues. Modern communications and computing technology will be a key enabler, allowing smart energy networks to be developed which efficiently utilise limited resources. Significant work has been undertaken on the technical delivery and system level economics but very little on customer behavior and how they might be encouraged to participate in the provision of flexible energy services.

The PhD research will examine the economics of demand response with the aim of quantifying the potential benefits for domestic consumer. In order to do this the potential market for demand response will be quantified using existing models of the UK electricity system. The potential capacity of individual homes will be examined using monitored data. Finally, potential value chains and business models will be explored in order to understand the barriers to adoption and opportunities for aggregators and others.


Trevor’s background in the Built Environment having completed his BSc in Architectural Technology at Cork Institute of Technology in 2009. He has worked in a technical capacity in architecture and design practices both in Ireland and the UK.

Trevor went on to study the MSc Environmental Design and Engineering (EDE) course at the Bartlett School of Graduate Studies. His dissertation research was focused on the economics of carbon saving, comparing cost effectiveness of refurbishment vs. rebuilding by taking a case study of two buildings which were part of a large regeneration project in Clapham.

After graduating from EDE Trevor joined PassivSystems where he works as a Techno-Economist applying his knowledge of buildings and construction to the realm of energy research. His work explores the economic, technological and behavioral aspects of energy use in the home, examining how these might interact to form the drivers of a future smart-grid.

Trevor returned to UCL in 2012 to complete his PhD which is supported by PassivSystems and focuses on the economics of delivering responsive electricity demand particularly focusing on how benefits can accrue to domestic consumers. 

Publications and other work

Sweetnam, T. and Croxford, B. (2011) A carbon, energy and cost assessment of whether to refurbish or rebuild aging UK residential blocks. CIBSE Technical Symposium. UK