Energy ManagementConnected environmentEnergy savingEnergy sociologyExperimentsUser participation

How can users be involved in the development of new smart energy management services?

One of the final objectives of InterConnect project is the participation of consumers in effective energy management.

Jeanne Piedallu
October 27, 2020

Indeed, studies have shown that raising end-user’s awareness of the issue of energy transition and developing solutions that encourage them to reduce their consumption can have a significant impact on energy efficiency and the reduction of carbon emissions [1].


Social appropriation of a technical innovation


The social conditions for the acceptability of smart energy management utilities consist of many elements [2]: the technical and energy culture of users; their social representations; how these solutions have been presented to them; their lifestyle and their relationship to comfort, their previous experience of techniques, the collective dynamics of its implication.


Seven European pilot sites will enable the involvement of users to test new energy management solutions in real situations. To ensure their success, it appears that it is necessary to know the “energy situation” of users [3] and to ensure clear communication from the experimentation to the tested solutions.



Acceptance of smart energy management tools


The increasingly systematic installation of smart meters in housing and buildings has been accompanied by a commonly shared vision: an increase in the skills of users who become actors in their consumption. However, this figure of the client withdrawing a sense of social distinction by innovative tools has met with reluctance on the part of some users [4]. Some of them, had a feeling of loss of control, of being monitored and have questioned the transparency in the use of personal data. Experiments – at the European level – have then demonstrated the importance of explaining to users that energy management tools are as much about creating value for the network and the market as they are directly for the consumer [5].



Whether for residential consumers or public and professional actors, the financial savings made possible by energy management solutions are often the first argument used by the promoters of these services. However, cost is far from being the only lever for behavioural change; many other drivers can be cited [6]. The levers of appropriation of solutions can be analysed and categorised according to 4 dimensions [3, 5, 6] : economic, material, social and symbolic.




Numerous studies show the interest of adapting the offer to the profiles of consumers or to their “energy situation” to facilitate the appropriation of solutions. The aim is to adapt recommendations and incentives to these types of users according to the stage they are in relation to these solutions: discovery, adoption, routine. The finality is to avoid them reaching the last stage: disinterest.



Acceptance of smart energy management tools


There are financial, material, social and symbolic drivers that can incite users to change their energy consumption behaviour, and mobile applications are the preferred tool for these transformations.


Its role is to encourage consumers to adopt energy-saving behaviour. Their designers consider user preferences to inform, motivate, and make relevant recommendations for action depending on the situation. Applications use extrinsic means of motivation such as playfulness and competitions between users, and intrinsic means such as visualisation of progress, simplification of tasks, success messages or presentation of environmental impact [1]. It has been shown that this type of application can reduce the energy consumption of its user by 7% [7].


To develop innovative solutions, experimental projects must therefore place users at the heart of their approach and consider the plurality of their motivations and constraints.


Involvement of users in an experiment

The registers mobilised by users to justify their participation in an experimentation of innovative energy management solutions are obviously linked to those that explain the level of sensitivity to energy issues, namely: the budget savings , environmental concerns, interest in technical and social innovations and the desire to participate in a citizen’s approach [8]. The 3 drivers of membership in a demonstrator are: a good communication strategy, effective support, and a long-term collective dynamic.[3, 5, 9]



Awareness-raising, support and, above all, communication actions are essential since their main objectives are to publicise the projects and to reassure future users. The commitment of the experimenters depends on the interest or curiosity they feel; whether there is communication adapted to the target audience; whether there are real opportunities for them to take part in the project.





In the InterConnect project, the inclusion of consumers in the design process of equipment and services for smarter, simpler, and more efficient energy management is organised at several levels:
– By associating them, through the creation of persona according to a design thinking methodology, to the definition of use cases to be experimented (WP1)
– By making them experiment the solutions in real situations and by considering their feedback on use. (WP7)
– By collecting their feedback on the efficiency and relevance of these services in their daily life – private uses – and in their professional and public life – businesses and communities (WP9).



[1] Chadoulos, Koutsopoulos and Polyzos, “Mobile apps meet the smart energy grid: A survey on consumer engagement and Machine Learning applications,” in IEEE Access, 2020
[2] Zelem, Beslay (dir.), Sociologie de l’énergie, Gouvernance et pratiques sociales, Lavoisier, Paris, 2016.
[3] Philibert, Marti & Gouy, « Les principaux résultats scientifiques du démonstrateur Smart Electric Lyon », Technical Report, 2017.
[4] Danieli, “La mise en société du compteur communicant d’électricité Linky : Enseignements sociologiques de la trajectoire d’innovation d’un outil de régulation économique », in Pratiques sociales et usages de l’énergie, Lavoisier, Paris, p. 123 136., 2016.
[5] Greenlys project :
[6] Durillon and al., “Considering various consumers profiles in a smart grid”, CIRED Workshop – Ljubljana, Paper 0280, 7-8 June 2018.
[7] Ludvigson, “Eliq User Research – Learnings from 5 years of energy monitoring apps”, 2018
[8] Caron, Durand-Daubin, « L’engagement dans une expérimentation d’effacement : des attitudes aux projets énergétiques des ménages », in Garabuau-Moussaoui, Pierre (dir), Pratiques sociales et usages de l’énergie, Paris, Lavoisier, Editions Tec & Doc, coll. “Socio-économie de l’énergie”, 253p., 2016
[9] SMILE, Smart Ideas to Link Energies, Assessment of 74 approved Smile projects, June 2020




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