Empowering households to energy sufficiency through co-designed app-based community energy challenges

In Switzerland, as in many Western countries, households are responsible for 31.4% of total energy consumption and are therefore an important intervention point for the “Energiestrategie2050”, the Swiss energy transition. Acknowledging that the widespread technical measures targeting energy efficiency of buildings tend to neglect the impact of the occupants’ behaviour in overall energy usage, a growing body of research has focused on behavioural measures targeting reducing energy consumption and exploitation of the potential for increased energy sufficiency. Social interventions targeting energy savings at home were in fact observed to reduce energy consumption by as much as 20%, when several behaviour and engagement initiatives were implemented.

Thanks to recent progress in information and communication technologies (ICTs), with smart meter roll-outs by utility companies, ease of installation of sensors, and the wide diffusion of smartphones by the consumers, energy-saving interventions are increasingly performed by means of applications (apps) for mobile technologies. This allows for customized, (nearly) real-time energy feedback and possibilities of interaction with and between the users. A growing tendency aims in particular at approaching individuals no longer as individual agents for change, but rather as socially situated individuals that are part of a wider community.

In previous research, our team developed an app-based energy savings challenge, called Social Power, that allowed households to monitor their electricity consumption in real time through a gamified, lay-person visualization, which connected actions to energy use, without the need for a more complex understanding of the energy system. Households were placed in teams, within which they were invited to collaborate to collectively save a
given amount of energy or to save more energy than a rival team (compared to their historical average consumption). While the real-world test of the app-based energy savings challenge successfully resulted in approx. 8% electricity savings in two Swiss cities, the savings were not maintained one year after the intervention ended.

We hypothesize that such a relapse to previous behaviour is due to a lack of explicit incorporation of user knowledge, practices, and preferences, into the design of the Social Power challenge. To explore such hypothesis, we launched the Social Power Plus follow-up project, in which we overcome the expert-based approach and actively engage potential target users in the design of the behaviour change intervention itself, in a living lab approach.

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Empowering households to energy sufficiency through co-designed app-based community energy challenges

Sectors: Buildings, Cross cutting, Digital, District energy

Country / Region: Global, Switzerland

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

In 1 user collection: Session 3a: Digital Solutions for Behaviour Change

Knowledge Object: Publication / Report

Publishing year: 2020

Author: Francesca Cellina, Vicente Carabias-Hütter, Roberta Castri1, Vanessa De Luca, Pasquale Granato, Pascal Kienast, Evelyn Lobsiger-Kägi, Devon Wemyss