The societal pressure to use energy more efficiently and the appearing new ways of energy supply in municipalities require an increasingly active role of the consumer. Information and communication technologies (ICT) can be used as support to promote this active role and to enable users to use energy more efficiently by providing more detailed information. In the “iURBAN” project, Fraunhofer ISE tested, to which extent this assumption can be applied in general and what ICT and non-ICT measures support users in their involvement in the energy efficiency topic for heat and electricity.
»iURBAN« is an ICT project with the objective to improve energy management for smart cities and their population, including households, small energy producers (prosumers), public buildings, city administrations, and utility companies. Two decision-supporting tools are provided, which were realized and tested in the pilot cities Rijeka (Croatia) and Plovdiv (Bulgaria).
Although the project is very technical and includes the use of hardware and software, it was realized as an interdisciplinary project with behavior research and business model development, including research and industrial partners. In summary, it can be said that the decisive aspect for initiating behavioral changes throughout the entire project period was the personal interaction with customers through informal meetings but also through analyses and interviews.
Through a co-designing process initiated by Fraunhofer ISR, the iURBAN users could and did participate in all project development phases, however the actual use of the ICT systems was low at the end. Thus, it is still questionable, how active the customer is going to be in managing energy in their homes. To acknowledge the low-involvement of household users we conclude and recommend the following:
- Ease information access by providing ermanently visible information, e.g., apps or computer widgets as well as paper-based information (as opposed to a login-process on a website).
- Keep it simple and provide complexity as an additional option: Overall, the population shows little interest in energy visualizations. Thus, detailed consumption charts with high temporal resolution may not raise interest at the beginning. An example of an effective way to communicate how well or bad a person is doing can be realized thorugh red-green signals. Detailed consumption charts with high temporal resolution can be provided additionally once interest has been raised.
- Increase in automation of appliances and thus granting the customer a more passive role (as opposed to active participation)
- Use non-technical measures and campaigns to reach theconsumer directly, establish trust, and influence energy consumption behavior