Library image, photo by Alireza Attari on Unsplash

Watts the deal?

17 December, 2020

Watts the deal?

Michael Fell

Clare Downing

Aimee K Eeles

Case study   Policy & Governance

Michael Fell, Clare Downing and Aimee Eeles

The UK’s electricity system is transforming. Renewable energy sources such as wind and solar have been growing rapidly, decarbonising our electricity but also posing challenges for how the system is operated.

The ability to generate and store power lies more and more with small actors like households and schools. Despite this, the way in which electricity is bought and sold remains the same as it has for decades – we simply buy electricity from, and sometimes sell electricity to, a single supplier.

One much-discussed alternative way of working is peer-to-peer (P2P) trading, where households and other small generators trade power directly between each other. This could help manage the grid by matching local supply and demand, and also have other benefits like promoting investment in renewables and providing revenue for community projects. But such models could also have implications for fairness – like who can participate, who is most likely to benefit, and who may foot any costs. Given their novelty, it can be hard for both experts and more general stakeholders to engage with the issues at stake. This risks important points and perspectives being overlooked and therefore research on this topic is valuable.

Watts the Deal? is a peer-to-peer (P2P) energy trading game developed by CREDS researchers Michael Fell and David Shipworth with colleagues at University College London’ (UCL), Energy Institute. It is a fun way to engage and learn and shows how such trading would take place within a community. Two key audiences were initially identified: policy-makers needing to learn about issues connected with P2P energy trading, and potential trial participants. It was initially produced as part of an EPSRC Petras project and development has continued as part of CREDS work on the social impacts of P2P energy trading in the Policy and Governance Theme.

We have facilitated many gameplay sessions with a variety of different stakeholder groups and a selection of these includes:

  • the future retail markets team at Ofgem
  • the Citizens Advice energy policy team
  • REScoop (European Federation of Renewable Energy Cooperatives)
  • Camden Council environment team
  • Nature Energy editorial team
  • a range of teaching contexts in multiple countries including Germany, Israel, and Colombia.

The response to the game has been very positive, as evidenced by word-of-mouth recommendations for sessions, requests and invitations to use it in teaching, and an invited paper in the journal Nature Energy (accessed more than 500 times in five months). Additional funding was secured from University College London to develop additional materials resulting in further connections with new organisations and the potential for the game to scale through provision of an online version (visited more than 350 times so far).

This game has helped increased players knowledge and ability to ask informed questions about P2P trading in the UK and beyond, improved the quality and creativity of research about P2P trading, and generated valuable relationships with key stakeholders. These relationships have already led to follow-up meetings and collaboration, such as provision of a letter of support for a related grant application, and advisory involvement in a PhD project (Ofgem). The game has also fostered genuine two-way knowledge exchange, with insights gained from playing sessions feeding back into ongoing research plans.

Project team

Future plans

Further UCL funding has been secured to apply the game principles to the London Solar Opportunity MapOpens in a new tab as a way of driving engagement and ultimately uptake of solar generation, for both households and communities.

Sources of information


@REScoopEU | The team here in Brussels had fun yesterday testing out the #WattsTheDeal P2P energy trading game. We learnt a lot about engaging citizens and gave our recommendations on how to include more cooperative elements. (It also turns out some of us are sore losers)

Publication details

Fell, M.J., Downing, C. and Eeles, A.K. 2020. Watts the deal? Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions. Oxford, UK. CREDS case study.

Banner photo credit: Alireza Attari on Unsplash