Less is More was a pilot project exploring a new approach to energy demand management. Its aim was to help communities reduce their electricity use, especially at peak times – and particularly to smooth out the ‘highs and lows’ of electricity demand.

The project was targeted at the level of electricity substations. A substation has to be able to supply enough power to meet ‘peak’ demand – usually from about 07.00 to 09.00 and then from 16.00 to 21.00. But upgrading electricity substations to meet this peak, only for demand to fall during other hours, is expensive and inefficient. If we can reduce the peaks, we’ll reduce bills and reduce upgrade costs.

Ten different communities were selected for this project:

In each of these communities a substation was monitored. The communities ‘attached’ to these substations were encouraged to consider their electricity use and find ways to reduce it and/or shift their electricity use to off-peak times. An incentive was on offer – up to £5,000 to improve each neighbourhood; the less electricity the community used (especially at peak times), the more funding they earned.

The communities were be supported in this by several charities who specialise in domestic energy advice and who provided support and simple equipment to help people change their patterns of electricity use. The emphasis, however, was on ‘whole-community action’, rather than engaging with each household individually.

This project was run by Western Power Distribution, the electricity distribution network operator for 7.8 million customers in the Midlands, South Wales and the South West. Its network consists of 216,000 km of overhead lines and underground cables, and 184,000 substations.

Funding for the project came from Ofgem’s Low Carbon Networks fund.

The lead charity partner was the Centre for Sustainable Energy, which, in addition to supporting some of the communities, is carrying out the monitoring of the participating substations, and created and manages this website. The other energy charities taking part were Marches Energy AgencyNational Energy FoundationCommunity Energy Plus and Severn Wye Energy Agency.