On April 22nd, internationally recognised as World Earth Day, a team of researchers from the University of Oxford have released a survey app dedicated to gathering data on UK households’ energy usage during the COVID-19 crisis. 

The ‘JoyMeter’ app, developed by the University’s Environmental Change Institute, asks participants to record 25 activities over the course of one day, such as drinking a cup of tea or using the shower.

To encourage participation, one participant will receive a year’s free electricity, to a maximum of £1000. The app is available for iOS and Android devices.

OC&C advert for MT20

The research project, backed by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, has been designed to gather information on household energy consumption.

However, in response to the coronavirus pandemic, it now aims to capture the impact of social distancing by comparing new data to records of the past three years.

Participants will be sent an electricity recorder via post which can be clipped under any electric meter. They can then record their activities for one day, before returning the parcel in a free pre-paid envelope. Then, participants will receive a personal energy use profile in addition to helping research on important energy questions. 

Dr Philipp Grunewald, Deputy Director of Energy Research at the Environmental Change institute explained the urgency of the research project, pointing out that “we have bimbled towards a climate catastrophe for decades”. He emphasised that the idea of large-scale societal change having to take a substantial amount of time has been proven “entirely wrong” by the COVID-19 crisis. 

Dr Grunewald asks: “Can we learn from the response to COVID-19 for our response to climate change? Both exhibit a runaway effect – not acting now means much tougher action later. Both rely on a recognition of the common good – my own (‘insignificant’) actions will affect many others (significantly!). And both could make us focus on what really matters.” He emphasises that “the current lockdown is a unique opportunity to learn how we cope with change.”

“Flexibility can become a crucial asset when increasingly relying on renewables and storage. Our current mass experiment can reveal which activities change and if a new normal can be established after the lockdown.

“While those oil tankers are aimlessly drifting around the oceans with their unwanted cargo on board, many societies have shown what change they are capable of – especially with far-sighted political leadership. That should give us great hope.” Dr Grunewald told Cherwell

Nathan Lawson, President of the Oxford Climate Society and producer of the Climate Breakdown Podcast, told Cherwell: “JoyMeter provides a brilliant opportunity for consumers to keep track of their consumption habits and importantly reveals how they change during the lockdown.”

The University of Oxford has been contacted for comment.