The retail sector is the largest commercial property sector and a vital part of the UK economy. Valued at over £300 billion, it accounts for one in 12 companies and employs one in nine working people. Businesses in the sector are diverse, ranging from multinational corporations to small independent stores. Across this diversity, the sector as a whole faces a number of challenges, including the global economic slowdown and the growing problem of energy management.

Currently, all firms and organizations pay energy bills, but not all actively 'manage' energy. Where energy management does occur, it is usually driven by financial concerns or corporate social responsibility, rather than being treated as a strategic business opportunity (Cooremans 2011). Energy prices have increased significantly in recent years, as have the number and nature of government requirements for understanding, displaying, and reporting energy consumption. Over the past 40 years, the poor uptake of retrofit technologies and management practices has resulted in efficiency and performance 'gaps' between how buildings perform in practice and in theory.

Working with Infrastructure, Creation of Knowledge, and Energy strategy Development (WICKED) bridges these gaps through scientific research on buildings, energy and organisational behaviour. WICKED’s cooperative research programme uses a mix of partner engagement, big data analytics, and empirical research to investigate the retail sector at multiple scales. Building on this evidence base, it co-designs market-ready energy strategies for diverse user groups.


  • Janda, K. B, J. Patrick, R. Granell and S J Bright, A WICKED approach to retail sector energy management, paper presented at ECEEE Summer Study, 1-6 June 2015 (Presqu'île de Giens, France). Vol. 1 - Foundations of Future Energy Policy, European Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy: Stockholm, Sweden.
    The UK retail sector is vital to the economy, diverse, and facing a number of challenges. Retailers range from multinational corporations to small independent stores, selling everything from antiques to frozen yoghurt. Stakeholders include landlords, tenants, and owner-occupiers. Across the sector, energy costs and requirements for understanding, displaying, and reporting energy use are increasing. Meanwhile organisations face competing pressures to “go local”, support staff development, and keep prices down. Because of this diversity, retail energy management creates a “wicked” problem, where solutions to challenges are contentious and multi-faceted. The Working with Infrastructure Creation of Knowledge and Energy strategy Development (WICKED) project provides energy solutions for different retail market segments. Through cooperative research, WICKED investigates clusters of technical, legal, and organisational challenges faced by retail groups, including those with smart meters and energy managers (the “data rich”) and those without (the “data poor”). In partnership with energy suppliers, retailers, landlords, SMEs, and Oxford University, WICKED develops actionable energy and business insights by combining (1) top-down big data analytics, (2) middle-out organisational research, and (3) new bottom-up data. Building on this interdisciplinary evidence base, WICKED co-designs market-ready energy strategies to fit the retail sector’s diverse needs. The project uses a segmented socio-technical model to explore challenges faced by six different types of stakeholders in the retail market: data rich and data poor owner-occupiers, landlords, and tenants. This paper presents data from three different organizations: a European electronics retailer; a multi-national full-service department store; and a budget shopping centre with 91 units. These cases show that one size does not fit all: the data rich and poor will need different energy management solutions. Smart meters will not solve everything: further analysis is necessary to turn numbers into knowledge. Changes to legal infrastructure (e.g., leases) will be needed to assist tenants and landlords in sharing data to enable both groups to monitor, measure, and report energy use. Additionally, how organisational cultures frame employee duties, behaviours, and expectations requires further investigation.

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