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Dr J. Richard Snape

Job: VC2020 Senior Lecturer

Faculty: Computing, Engineering and Media

School/department: School of Engineering and Sustainable Development

Research group(s): Institute of Energy and Sustainable Development (IESD)

Address: De Montfort University, The Gateway, Leicester, LE1 9BH

T: +44116 201 3934



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Personal profile

I am a researcher in the Institute of Energy and Sustainable Development at DMU, working on the agent-based modelling of energy networks, in particular community energy schemes and the electricity network in the form of smart grids.  My major interest is in complex systems modelling, incorporating human behaviour and decision making into models of energy infrastructure systems.  I have been co-investigator on a number of projects in this area.  I love to talk about complexity, both in its highly mathematical form and its more socio-technical forms.

I love to teach: I am currently the module leader for first year Engineering Mathematics, on which I teach undergraduates across every course in the School of Engineering and Sustainable Development.  I also supervise projects and dissertations from undergraduate to PhD level.  I am also a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (now part of AdvanceHE) and hold a PGCertHE.

If you would like to work with me on a project, think I can help with some consultancy work or would like me to look at a PhD proposal in my areas of interest, please do not hesitate to get in touch.


I gained my PhD entitled "Incorporating human behaviour in an agent based model of technology adoption in the transition to a smart grid" in 2015, having completed it while working on the CASCADE and AMEN projects (the PhD was funded by CASCADE).  The main contribution is an understanding of the effects of human behavioural response to policy introduction and changes on the adoption of renewable energy technology (specifically PV panels in response to feed-in tariffs in the UK).  This was in the context of proposed moves towards a smart grid.

Prior to that I worked in the railway sector,most recently as a Signals Availability Manager on the London Underground, managing a department of approximately 80 staff.  That followed an 18 month stint as a software developer at a medium sized software development company developing Java based mail server and webmail software, as part of an integrated telecoms solution.

 I studied Engineering at King’s College, Cambridge from 1998-2002, specialising in Electrical and Information Sciences in 3rd and 4th year. I graduated with First Class honours (which owing to a quirk of Oxbridge history leads to an MA degree) and gained an MEng with Merit in Electronic and Information Sciences. During his studies he was sponsored by and worked for a large Automotive company, amongst other things developing a benchmarking solution for Adaptive Cruise Control.

Research group affiliations

Institute of Energy and Sustainable Development (IESD)

Publications and outputs

  • Smart community energy schemes: a case study-based model
    Smart community energy schemes: a case study-based model Snape, J. Richard Smart energy usage forms a key component of sustainable, smart future infrastructure. The urgency of incentivising energy transitions to low and zero carbon system grows ever greater and European policymakers and academics alike are recognising the need to accelerate transitions to clean energy systems, within which community energy schemes have a potentially large role to play. With an approach grounded in case studies in the UK, potential for both energy saving and demand flexibility through local schemes allowing within-community usage of local renewable energy sources is explored. The analysis makes use of empirical results from a pioneering 50 household study of a community using realtime data on local generation availability in combination with a time of use tariff to influence use of PV resources installed on rooves of scheme participants within that community. PV assets were owned by individuals rather than collectively, however both owners and non-owners benefitted from a scheme incentivising smart usage of locally generated renewable electricity within that community. An issue for community energy schemes is understanding how they might be scaled up, either by mass replication of very small schemes, likely to be highly diverse and administratively burdensome, or via a smaller number of larger schemes, which may lose the essence of community that works at smaller scale. In addition, schemes exist in the context of differing and evolving technology ownership, for example with increasing EV ownership and changing modes of heating and cooling via use of heat pumps and building fabric changes. An approach to understanding the interactions between technology, economics, community members and policy via agent-based modelling is presented in this paper and illustrated using the case study. The paper demonstrates the utility of the agent-based approach when investigating replicability and scale-up in a necessarily complex environment and presents early findings on potential for community energy schemes to proliferate.
  • The Practice and Potential of Renewable Energy Localisation: Results from a UK Field Trial
    The Practice and Potential of Renewable Energy Localisation: Results from a UK Field Trial Boait, Peter John; Snape, J. Richard; Morris, R.; Darby, S. The adaptation of electricity demand to match the non-despatchable nature of renewable generation is one of the key challenges of the energy transition. We describe a UK field trial in 48 homes of an approach to this problem aimed at directly matching local supply and demand. This combined a community-based business model with social engagement and demand response technology employing both thermal and electrical energy storage. A proportion of these homes (14) were equipped with rooftop photovoltaics (PV) amounting to a total of 45 kWp; the business model enabled the remaining 34 homes to consume the electricity exported from the PV-equipped dwellings at a favourably low tariff in the context of a time-of-day tariff scheme. We report on the useful financial return achieved by all participants, their overall experience of the trial, and the proportion of local generation consumed locally. The energy storage devices were controlled, with user oversight, to respond automatically to signals indicating the availability of low cost electricity either from the photovoltaics or the time of day grid tariff. A substantial response was observed in the resulting demand profile from these controls, less so from demand scheduling methods which required regular user configuration. Finally results are reported from a follow-up fully commercial implementation of the concept showing the viability of the business model. We conclude that the sustainability of the transition to renewable energy can be strengthened with a community-oriented approach as demonstrated in the trial that supports users through technological change and improves return on investment by matching local generation and consumption. open access article
  • Future of community energy systems - lessons from agent-based modelling
    Future of community energy systems - lessons from agent-based modelling Snape, J. Richard; Boait, Peter J. This chapter proposes that agent-based modelling (ABM) is a highly useful technique to model the emergence and behaviour of community energy schemes in diverse contexts and uses a number of implemented models to illustrate how the technique may be used to provide insight into smart community energy schemes that would not be possible using other modelling techniques. Use of ABM to understand the interactions between technology, economics, community members and policy is discussed and the potential for analysing future community energy systems, including those within smart cities, is discussed.
  • Designing for difference: lessons from a cross-disciplinary implementation of Universal Design for Learning
    Designing for difference: lessons from a cross-disciplinary implementation of Universal Design for Learning Brown, James Benedict; Hall, Richard; Lishman, Ros; Rushworth, Jo; Snape, J. Richard Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a pedagogical framework that seeks to provide students with flexible ways of learning, flexiblestudyresources,andflexiblewaysoftestinglearning. Just as Universal Design (UD) provides for difference of physical ability amongst users, UDL provides for difference of learning styles amongst students. Like UD, UDL assumes that learner difference, not commonality, is the norm. 1 De Montfort University (DMU) is a public teaching and research university located in the city of Leicester in the East Midlands of England. In 2016, DMU adopted UDL as part of a university- wide program to offset the consequences of changes to central government support for students with disabilities. Alongside a significant investment in lecture capture and replay technology, DMU’s adoption of the principles of UDL has challenged faculty members teaching at all levels and in all disciplines to re- appraise the accessibility and inclusivity of their teaching. This paper discusses research-in-progress from a cross-discipline survey of the implementation of the principles of UDL at DMU.* The project examines the perceptions and feelings of freshman students from a range of different backgrounds and in a range of subjects about the impact of UDL on their experience of higher education. When complete, the project will evaluate how the implementation of the principles and ideas of UDL are interpreted and applied by students, alongside their recom- mendations for the academic practice of staff. Funded by the Teaching Innovation Project (2016/17) 'Towards Equitable Engagement: the Impact of UDL on Student Perceptions of Learning'
  • Evaluating the Performance of Physics Students on the Autistic Spectrum within HE
    Evaluating the Performance of Physics Students on the Autistic Spectrum within HE Bassford, Marie; Snape, J. Richard Currently, a third of first year physics students at De Montfort University (DMU), Leicester, have declared that they have a disability. The majority of these students are on the autistic spectrum. How many more of the physics student cohort are also on the spectrum but have not declared it to the University or ever sought a diagnosis is unknown. A tangible consequence of the composition of the class is that classroom dynamics are different to other groups of comparable size and experience; we have an evidently intelligent, inquisitive group of students, however there are noticeable barriers and adjustments that need to be made in order to maximize the student learning and performance of the cohort. At DMU, we are examining student performance as part of the University’s engagement with Universal Design for Learning (UDL). We are exploring how our learning materials are perceived by students, whether they are accessible and ultimately whether they adequately provide the necessary background for students to prepare for assessments. This research involves a detailed statistical analysis of how students perform at a per assessment level, for example comparing student performance data for those on the spectrum to the rest of the cohort. Assessment types include exams as well as specific coursework elements ranging from multiple choice phase tests (paper based and online), laboratory books, laboratory reports, presentations and group work. The aim of the research is to understand if students on the autistic spectrum perform significantly better or less well at any particular assessment type. Our research will include student focus groups to explore the reasons behind poor student performance in order to identify any specific obstacles encountered and to identify where we can adapt our resources to enhance future student performance and maximize retention and progression. This work may also give insights into how autistic students in other STEM subjects perform and lead to further studies in other subjects such as engineering and mathematics. Funded by De Montfort University Teaching Innovation Project (TIP) funding
  • Making Legacy Thermal Storage Heating fit for the Smart Grid
    Making Legacy Thermal Storage Heating fit for the Smart Grid Boait, Peter John; Snape, J. Richard; Darby, S.; Hamilton, J.; Morris, R. Thermal storage heaters, charged using overnight off-peak electricity, have been used for domestic space heating in the UK and other countries since the 1980s. However, they have always been difficult for consumers to manage efficiently and, with the advent of a high proportion of renewables in the electricity generation mix, the time of day when they are charged needs to be more flexible. There is also a need to reduce peaks in the demand profile to allow distribution networks to support new sources of demand such as electric vehicles. We describe a trial of a smart control system that was retrofitted to a group of six dwellings with this form of heating, with the objectives of providing more convenient and efficient control for the users while varying the times at which charging is performed, to flatten the profile of demand and make use of locally-generated renewable electricity. The trial also employs a commercially-realistic combination of a static time-of-day tariff with a real time tariff dependent on local generation, to provide consumers with the opportunity and incentive to reduce their costs by varying times of use of appliances. Results from operation over the 2015-16 heating season indicate that the objectives are largely achieved. It is estimated that on an annualised and weather-adjusted basis most of the users have consumed less electricity than before intervention and their costs are less on the trial tariffs. Critical factors for success of this form of system are identified, particularly the need to facilitate hands-on control of heating by thrifty users and the importance of an effective and sustained user engagement programme when introducing the technology, to ensure users gain confidence through a readily-accessible source of support and advice. Collaborative paper with Oxford University Environmental Change Institute and Energy Local Ltd. The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version. The Publisher's final version can be found by following the DOI link.
  • Closing the feedback loop: A systems approach to supporting community-wide behaviour change in non-domestic buildings
    Closing the feedback loop: A systems approach to supporting community-wide behaviour change in non-domestic buildings Stuart, Graeme; Snape, J. Richard; Fleming, P. D. Energy consumption is notoriously invisible to building users. Communicating energy performance to users presents a significant opportunity to support behaviour change. Access to near real-time consumption data makes ubiquitous energy performance feedback systems a realistic possibility. Non-domestic building energy performance is a complicated issue, so providing simple, intelligible feedback can be difficult. Communicating what building users are supposed to do with the information is still more so. A true closed-loop feedback system must include both communication of information to users and a means for users to affect the building to which the information pertains. This paper reports the design and use of a novel information system to facilitate a true feedback loop between a community of building stakeholders (users, energy professionals, researchers) and 25 pilot buildings. The buildings were equipped to communicate energy performance in near real time via a user-friendly ‘dashboard’ built on a sophisticated system of automated data capture, energy consumption modelling, predictive statistical analysis and visualisation. The ‘dashboard’ allowed casual users to access information easily via a simple happy/sad performance indicator whilst more “data-philic” users were able to click through to a data rich, easy-to-use interface. Users were also provided with access to a digital social platform enabling transparent discussion of energy performance with reference to the objective data. Results show that the ‘dashboard’ and digital social platform components are each valuable in their own right but in combination they produced a system whereby users could identify and solve energy and water performance problems effectively and efficiently. The work was partly funded by the SMARTSPACES project ( co-funded by the European Commission within the CIP ICT Policy Support Programme (Grant agreement no. 297273).
  • Performance comparison of UK domestic renewable incentives
    Performance comparison of UK domestic renewable incentives Snape, J. Richard; Boait, Peter John; Rylatt, R. Mark The UK has introduced two schemes that incentivise the adoption of domestic-scale renewable energy technologies (RETs), specifically the feed-in tariff (FiT) and renewable heat incentive (RHI). Both policies offer householders who install RETs a payback tariff based on the quantity of renewable energy they can produce and were introduced in the context of UK’s 2050 carbon reduction targets. A dual method is used to analyse the differing adoption under both schemes and reasons for it. First, registration data are analysed to assess impact in terms of stimulation of RET adoption in the domestic setting. Second, agent-based models are used to simulate adoption under both schemes and test the impact of non-financial factors on the rates of adoption. Results of the analysis and models are combined to give insight into differing rates of adoption. The paper concludes that factors beyond pure financial considerations have significant effects on rates of adoption, with the FiT stimulating far more adoption of rooftop photovoltaics than the RHI has stimulated adoption of heat pumps. It is recommended that policymakers take account of these non-financial factors when designing policy to encourage adoption of technology necessary for smart low-carbon future energy systems.
  • Spatial and Temporal Characteristics of PV Adoption in the UK and Their Implications for the Smart Grid
    Spatial and Temporal Characteristics of PV Adoption in the UK and Their Implications for the Smart Grid Snape, J. Richard Distributed renewable electricity generators facilitate decarbonising the electricity network, and the smart grid allows higher renewable penetration while improving efficiency. Smart grid scenarios often emphasise localised control, balancing small renewable generation with consumer electricity demand. This research investigates the applicability of proposed decentralised smart grid scenarios utilising a mixed strategy: quantitative analysis of PV adoption data and qualitative policy analysis focusing on policy design, apparent drivers for adoption of the deviation of observed data from the feed-in tariff impact assessment predictions. Analysis reveals that areas of similar installed PV capacity are clustered, indicating a strong dependence on local conditions for PV adoption. Analysing time series of PV adoption finds that it fits neither neo-classical predictions, nor diffusion of innovation S-curves of adoption cleanly. This suggests the influence of external factors on the decision making process. It is shown that clusters of low installed PV capacity coincide with areas of high population density and vice versa, implying that while visions of locally-balanced smart grids may be viable in certain rural and suburban areas, applicability to urban centres may be limited. Taken in combination, the data analysis, policy impact and socio-psychological drivers of adoption demonstrate the need for a multi-disciplinary approach to understanding and modelling the adoption of technology necessary to enable the future smart grid. Published in a full open access journal
  • Incorporating human behaviour in an agent based model of technology adoption in the transition to a smart grid
    Incorporating human behaviour in an agent based model of technology adoption in the transition to a smart grid Snape, J. Richard The requirement for affordable, secure and sustainable energy production is a pressing global challenge and the production of electricity with low carbon emissions is crucial. This usually entails large quantities of renewable energy generation, which is intermittent and often highly distributed throughout the electricity supply system. One of the proposed schemes to manage such generation is the smart grid, the transition to which forms the context for this research. The aim is to investigate the effect of certain psychological and social influences on the adoption of technology necessary to enable smart grids, in order to understand the implications for effective energy policy. In particular, the case of photovoltaic (PV) system adoption in the UK is studied. Empirical data detailing PV installations registered for the Feed in Tariff is analysed in order to understand rates of adoption and how they vary across both time and space. This analysis is combined with a review of policy intervention and literature from psychology to understand drivers for adoption among householders. The results from this study are then used to inform the design of an Agent Based Model of technology adoption within the smart grid context. The decision making of householders is modelled using an algorithm based on Social Cognitive Theory. The model is used to simulate different conditions and generate adoption scenarios in order to understand the potential effects of different parameters on adoption rates. In order to combine the analysis resulting from these methods, the multi-level perspective on transition in socio-technical systems is used to understand how a transition to a smart grid could be described and how adoption of PV in the UK under the Feed in Tariff incentive fits into such a transition. The results show that whilst economic incentive policies have had success in some areas adoption is also dependent on many non-financial parameters. Simulations show that the observability of adoption and the perceived inconvenience or urgency of adoption can have dramatic effects on rates of adoption, in some cases outweighing the rational economic effects of financial incentives. The implication for smart grid related policy is that non-financial factors should be taken into account as well as the more typical financial considerations in efforts to encourage adoption of necessary enabling technology by householders. The models developed could be used in further work to examine in detail adoption of other technologies such as smart home energy management systems and the interaction between adoption rates of multiple smart technologies.

Click here to view a full listing of J. Richard Snape's publications and outputs.

Key research outputs

Research interests/expertise

Community Energy:

  • integrated modelling of technical, economic and social components of novel community energy schemes
  • integration of particular demand characteristics (heat, electricity and mobility) for a community with energy supply scheme
  • Scalability of community energy schemes

Complexity Science and Complex Adaptive Systems:

  • Agent Based Modelling
  • Complexity in socio-technical systems
  • Mathematics of complexity

Smart Grids:

  • integrated modelling of technical, economic and social components of the smart grid
  • research into (sometimes competing) scenarios for potential future smart grids
  • investigating transitions between the status quo and potential smart grids

Renewable energy:

  • the effect of large scale introduction of distributed and sustainable energy sources into the electricity distribution network
  • the effect of consumer behaviour on overall energy consumption
  • The effect of consumer behaviour on technology adoption

Transition in Socio-technical systems:

  • theoretical perspectives on socio-technical system transition
  • effect of policy on socio-technical transitions

Areas of teaching

I teach mainly Engineering Mathematics and supervise Final Year undergraduate and taught Masters students with their projects and dissertations and PhD students.  I have previously taught short courses on electronic communications in the School of Computing, supplementary mathematics for Quantum Physics and electronic theory, as well as demonstrating and supervising mechanical engineering laboratory sessions. 

I enjoy teaching mathematics as applied to engineering, in particular mathematical modelling, computational simulation, numerical techniques and optimisation.


PhD - "Incorporating human behaviour in an agent based model of technology adoption in the transition to a smart grid"

MEng (Cantab) – Electrical and Information Sciences Tripos – Merit

MA (Cantab) – Engineering – Class I

Courses taught

ENGD1001  - Engineering Mathematics  - module leader

ENGD3000  - Final Year Project supervision

ENGT5301  - Engineering MSc project supervision

ENGT5304  - IESD MSc dissertation

Honours and awards

NESTA award for dynamic demand challenge (£50k prize to be used on development)

Membership of professional associations and societies

Member of European Council for an Energy Efficient Economy — ECEEE, 2011 - present.

Professional licences and certificates

FHEA  - Higher Education Academy (2017)

PGCertHE  - De Montfort University (2017)


LES-CEGADS : Funded by EPSRC grant

Agents to the Rescue: Creating Artificial Lab for Evaluating Human-Natural Systems




Conference attendance

Rethink, Renew, Restart - ECEEE 2013 Summer Study conference, 3-6 June 2013, Presqu'ile des Giens, France –

Snape JR and Boait P.J. (2013), Enhancing energy efficiency through smart control: paths and policies for deployment (Full paper)

Snape JR (2013) Smart Grids, local adoption of distributed generation and the Feed in Tariff policy incentive (Short paper and poster)

Energy efficiency first: The foundation of a low-carbon society -ECEEE 2011 Summer Study conferences, 3-6 June 2011, Presqu'ile des Giens, France –

Snape JR, Irvine KN and Rynikiewicz C (2011), Understanding energy behaviours and transitions through the lens of a smart grid Agent Based Model (Full paper) 

Paper presented at the International Small Islands Study Association (ISISA) conference, August 2010 Bornholm, Denmark.

Rynikiewicz, C. & Snape, J.R. (2010) Investigating the peculiarities of sustainable energy policies in islands communities for smart grid development: insights from complexity science and agent based models.

Consultancy work

I am available for consultancy work in the area of community energy, modelling of energy systems, modelling of renewable energy integration or agent-based modelling more widely.  I would be happy to conduct consultancy on design or evaluation.

I have completed consultancy work for example companies looking to implement community energy schemes at scale, from database design and detailed software design to more high level algorithm design and overall scheme objectives.

Current research students

Current PhD supervision

Muhammad Abubakar - "Investigation of Sustainability constraints on Natural Gas Monetisation in Nigeria Using Agent-based Models" - 2nd supervisor

Mahmud Mustafa - "Dew point air-conditioning system application in Middle East" - 2nd supervisor

Example Completed MSc supervision

Kazuhiko Hashimoto - "Creating supporting software for the training of train drivers"

Externally funded research grants information

  • LES-CEGADS : Funded by EPSRC grant – academic research project in collaboration with Innovate UK development project – start: 01/01/2015 end: 30/06/2017 – Role: Research Fellow.
  • MINDER – academic research project – start: 01/04/2016 end:01/04/2017 – Role: PhD researcher, collaboration between Cranfield University and IESD 
  • Agent-based Modelling of the Electricity Network (AMEN) – EPSRC funded: grant EP/K033492/1 – academic research project – start: 01/04/2013 end:01/04/2016 – Role: Research Fellow.
  • Complex Adaptive Systems, Cognitive Agents and Distributed Energy (CASCADE) – EPSRC funded: grant EP/GO59969/1 – academic research project – start: 01/01/2010 end:01/04/2013 – Role: PhD researcher, collaboration between Cranfield University and IESD

Internally funded research project information

Teaching Innovation Project 2016/17  - "Towards Equitable Engagement: the Impact of UDL on Student Perceptions of Learning" with Prof Richard Hall, Ros Lishman, Jo Rushworth and James Brown  - As a Co-Invesitigator, I focused on the experience of a cohort of students on the Autistic Spectrum within the Faculty of Technology and their co-creation of an evaluation of UDL.

Professional esteem indicators

Invited to join the experts discussion forum for the International Energy Agency (IEA) Task 24 on Demand Side Management – reporting on “Changing behaviour for Demand Side Management".

Case studies

Researchers, policy makers and practitioners from across the UK attended the CASCADE project final dissemination event – including academics from University College London (UCL) and Imperial College, alongside representatives from DECC, Ofgem and a number of electricity suppliers. There was significant interest in work following on from that project – especially the Agent Based Modelling of the Electricity Network (AMEN) project -

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