CSIRO Energise is our new app that makes you a citizen scientist, telling us about your power usage and helping illuminate Australia's energy landscape, which at the moment is in the dark.


Sue Jackson/CC

If you remember the last time you rifled through the candle drawer during a blackout, you’ll remember that blackouts shine a light on our total dependence on electricity: the food in the fridge, the lights, the WiFi…the phone charger. Our lives are electric.

Since electricity is the fuel of modern society, you might imagine a faultless national map for how we use our energy, the power grid that distributes it, the various sources that generate it, and how that might transform as we transition away from fossil fuels and towards renewable ones. But—it’s not without fault, it has pieces missing, or yet to be described at all, and there are many ways it could be improved.

Before we tell you why such a thing is vitally important, we’re going to tell you how it would be built and how you’re going to build it for us. ‘…what was that?’ Oh…nothing.

Power to the people, right on

Any useful model, or representation, of Australia’s energy use needs input from Australian homes: how much power they use, with what appliances, and at what times. And in our homes, even in this age of enlightenment and smartphones—the world’s knowledge (and megaphone) at our fingertips—we’re often left feeling powerless to contribute, kept in the dark as decisions are made about our energy futures.

*Ting*—an idea: Why not play match-maker and empower Australians to contribute energy use data, allowing Australians to build their own energy model? The ‘Energy Use Data Model’; the map-makers’ map. And that’s what our research group, led by Dr Adam Berry, is doing.

The CSIRO Energise app

‘An app?’ you say, bells raising, flags ringing. Yes—there are plenty of apps, each vying for our time and attention, but this isn’t about push notifications or crushing lollies. It’s about science. Citizen science and a dialogue.

What data will you be contributing? Stuff you might tell an enquiring house guest: household characteristics, appliances, uptake of renewables, all via micro-surveys.

An example survey question complete with tantalising progress bar.

CSIRO Energise has a two-way focus: it collects the information you submit and, in exchange, provides you with exciting updates on our science.

And not only will your information contribute to household-level insights, but also to the ‘big picture’ scale, allowing us to build the right technologies and solutions that will come to support Australian households in the future.

‘At the moment, as a nation, we do a great job at coming up with awesome tech,’ says Dr Berry, project lead ‘—but it’s a bit like buying a birthday present for someone you don’t know well: you can get them a present you think is awesome, but it might be entirely the wrong thing for what they really want or need…

‘In Australia, we don’t know enough about how households interact with energy, what it means to them and what their pain points are.  If we don’t understand the relationship between householder, house, and energy use, then we as a nation are never going to make the best policies, technologies, and products for those households. We are left guessing at what hurts and what could work…’

On a more immediate scale, users of the app will receive content and have access to data:

  • how the nation uses their power (keeping up with the Phoneses),
  • microblogs from our researchers on their journey towards a completed national energy model,
  • charts, videos, and more, and finally, the most important part:
  • Brownie points—redeemable with friends, family, and whosoever should hear about the pleasures of citizen science in collaboration with yours truly.

520 brownie points. Nice.

And don’t worry about the energy taken from your phone. We crunched the numbers: if you charge your phone for three hours a day, in the entire year, it’ll cost you just $1. HTC 10, you’re a bit over…

What’s so important? I switched off

Thanks for your refreshing honesty.

With your help via CSIRO Energise, not only can we illuminate Australia’s current energy landscape, but we can start shifting it to where it needs to go. And that needs data.

‘If we don’t have the data about these massive shifts and what they mean to Australia, then we are running blind – and that is not a good way to design an optimal future!’ says Dr Berry.

It goes without saying, but everyone runs blind in a blackout.


  1. I would prefer to use my laptop to provide the information that’s required for this survey, I’m running windows 10.

    1. Hi Brian,
      Thanks for your interest! Unfortunately, Energise is only available on mobile phones.
      Eliza – social media team

  2. I was going to download it, but why do you need to read/modify/delete my media files, take pictures and full network access??!! Sorry, but I always look at the requested permissions and I wouldn’t accept those.

    1. Hi Natalie,
      We asked the developers and researchers and this was their response:

      “In order for content to be delivered or surveys to submitted, the App requires network access. Media access (access to use the camera or for the user to select a photo) is required for surveys that ask for photo evidence or for a drawing. The App needs a place to store an image, taken by the camera, or process an image selected; in both cases, the user is in full control.”

      Hope that helps clear it up for you!
      Eliza – social media team

  3. Why do so many apps need to use a phone, with no option for computers? I’d gladly participate but don’t have a smartphone, which this app seems to require. Any suggestions how I can participate by computer, please?

  4. any opportunities for gamification? a lovely badge for FB, LinkedIn, Twitter or discount from my favourite energy retailer PowerShop?

  5. I am trying to download it on my laptop running windows 10, but I cannot. Why?

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