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Sarah Deasley

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Sarah has over 20 years’ experience working as an economist within the energy sector with a focus on environmental policy, network regulation and the energy retail market. She is well known for her recent work on the implications of the move to a low-carbon economy, with a particular focus on smart technologies and consumer energy behaviour. This has included leading our work for Energy Technologies Institute as part of its £100m Smart Systems and Heat Programme, for DECC on issues such as Demand Side Response and renewable support schemes and the Committee on Climate Change on policy design to overcome barriers to the take-up of low carbon technologies.

She is an expert in network regulation and led Frontier’s work for Phoenix Natural Gas in its successful price control appeal to the Competition Commission. She has been at the forefront of analysis of smart grid solutions producing the first framework for evaluation of smart grids for Ofgem and the Smart Grids Forum, been involved in the design of a number of innovative trials of smart solutions and advised regulators and industry on development of regulatory policy to get the best value from future sector changes.

Sarah has also worked extensively on energy retail market issues from the time the GB sector was first opened up to competition in the 1990s through to the market investigation reference to the CMA. Clients include SSE, British Gas and Energy UK. She has worked on assessing the competition effects of proposed mergers in the sector and has advised suppliers that are still subject to regulation on the design of retail price controls. She has also evaluated a number of the environmental retailer obligations including CESP, CERT and ECO.

Much of Sarah’s recent work has focused on the implications of the move to a low-carbon economy for households and businesses. This includes particular focus on energy efficiency and demand side response (DSR), smart meters and smart grids and heat.

Sarah directed our work with DECC to review DSR trial evidence in the domestic electricity sector and undertook our analysis of the likely market developments related to smart metering, such as smart tariffs, energy saving products and services, and home automation. She was also the project director for our study for DECC on international onshore wind policy support. She has worked extensively for British Gas on its smart metering strategy from helping it form its policy position through to evaluating its contractual arrangements with meter asset providers. Sarah also advised the Irish regulator (CER) on the CBAs it undertook of a full roll-out of smart meters in Ireland in both the gas and the electricity sectors.

She has been at the forefront of analysis of smart grid solutions producing the first framework for evaluation of smart grids for Ofgem and the Smart Grids Forum, been involved in a number of innovative trials of smart solutions and advised regulators and industry on development of regulatory policy to get the best value from future sector changes. She has also been working with ELEXON to quantify and propose solutions to the cross-party impacts of DSR actions.

Sarah has worked with a number of clients to understand new approaches to heat supply. Heat accounts for over 40% of the UK’s demand for energy and so must be a central part of any solution to meet the climate change agenda. For example, she has worked extensively with the ETI as part of its £100m Smart Systems and Heat Programme. This work has included seeking to better understand consumers’ needs for heat, and how these needs can be met in the move to a low-carbon economy. She has also developed and evaluated business models that will need to emerge to deliver change to the heat sector and looked at the impact policy could have in ensuring that the market place delivers greatest value to consumers. Sarah has led projects for the Committee on Climate Change to develop pathways for the roll out of heat pumps and proposals for reducing the cost of capital for private low-carbon investment decisions, such as the purchase of heat pumps and EVs. She is also leading our work as part of a consortium for DECC to understand the performance of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) and its effect on the renewable heat supply chain.

The importance of understanding of how consumers use energy and interact with energy companies is gaining prominence. Sarah has led our work in the application of behavioural economics to the energy sector.

One area where behavioural economics has played an important role is in the analysis of retail competition.  Ofgem’s Retail Market Review used a BE approach to recommend a number of reforms to the market including tariff simplification. Sarah advised a number of clients including SSE, British Gas and Energy UK as part of this review.

Another area where it is increasingly been used is in thinking about how consumers use energy and how this might change with the move to the low carbon economy. A number of trials have been developed to look at this. Sarah led our work for Northern Powergrid on designing a trial to engage customers in providing Demand Side Response (DSR) actions. This used a range of behavioural economics techniques (education, information, social norms and gamification) as well as best practice in customer engagement to help develop measures which would encourage customers to move their consumption away from peak times. Sarah has also advised the Committee on Climate Change on the behavioural barriers to customers taking up finance for low carbon technologies such as EVs and Heat Pumps.

Sarah has worked with a number of clients using behavioural economics techniques to understand new approaches to heat supply. Heat accounts for over 40% of the UK’s demand for energy and so must be a central part of any solution to meet the climate change agenda. For example, she has worked extensively with the ETI as part of their £100m Smart Systems and Heat Programme. This work has included seeking to better understand consumers’ needs for heat through extensive in-home monitoring and quantitative and qualitative research techniques.

Energy retail

Sarah has worked extensively on energy retail issues from the time the GB sector was first opened up to competition in the 1990s. This includes a number of projects as part of Ofgem’s Retail Market Review, including for SSE, British Gas and Energy UK. This work has included assessment of the level of competition in the energy retail market and proposals for the way that it could be further enhanced. It has also involved the development of a set of competition metrics that could be used to help understand and communicate market changes to a wide range of stakeholders.

She is an expert in the likely market developments related to smart metering, such as smart tariffs, energy saving products and services and home automation through work for clients such as DECC, Ofgem and the Committee on Climate Change. For example, her work with ETI has included seeking to better understand consumers’ needs for heat and design the retail business models that will need to evolve to meet these needs. She has also evaluated a number of the environmental retailer obligations including CESP, CERT and ECO.

As well as advising on issues associated with liberalised retail markets, she has advised energy retail companies still subject to formal price regulation. For example, she has advised Phoenix Natural Gas on benchmarking of retail sector margins as an input into the setting of three consecutive retail price controls in Northern Ireland. She has also worked on assessing the competition effects of proposed mergers in the energy retail sector.

Publications