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Abstract

There is no smart grid without a smart end-user! Smart grids will be essential in future energy systems to allow for major improvements in energy efficiency and for the integration of solar energy and other renewables into the grid, thereby contributing to climate change mitigation and environmental sustainability at large. End-users will play a crucial role in these smart grids that aim to link end-users and energy providers in a better balanced and more efficient electricity system. The success of smart grids depends on effective active load and demand side management facilitated by appropriate technologies and financial incentives, requiring end-user, market and political acceptance. However, current smart grid pilot projects typically focus on technological learning and not so much on learning to understand consumer needs and behaviour in a connected living environment. The key question thus remains: how to engage end-users in smart grid projects so as to satisfy end-user needs and stimulate active end-user participation, thereby realizing as much as possible the potential of energy demand reduction, energy demand flexibility, and local energy generation? The aim of European S3C project (www.s3c-project.eu) is to further understanding of engaging end-users (households and SMEs) in smart grid projects and ways this may contribute to the formation of new 'smart' behaviours. This research is based upon three key pillars: 1) the analysis of a suite of (recently finished or well-advanced) European smart-grid projects to assess success factors and pitfalls; 2) the translation of lessons learned to the development of concrete engagement guidelines and tools, and 3) the further testing of the guidelines and tools in a collection of ongoing smart grid projects leading to a finalized 'toolbox' for end-user engagement. Crucially, it differentiates findings for three key potential end-user roles: 'Consumer' (a rather passive role primarily involving energy saving), 'Customer' (a more active role offering demand flexibility and micro-scale energy production), and 'Citizen' (the most pro-active role involving community-based smart grid initiatives). Within this context, this paper aims to deliver a coherent view on current good practice in end-user engagement in smart grid projects. Starting from a brief theoretical introduction, it highlights the success factors - like underscoring the local character of a smart energy projects - and barriers - like the lack of viable business cases - the S3C case study analysis has revealed. It furthermore describes how these insights are translated into a collection of guidelines and tools on topics such as understanding target groups, designing adequate incentives, implementing energy monitoring systems, and setting up project communication. Also, an outlook towards future testing of those guidelines and tools within on-going smart grid projects is given. Consequently, we argue for each one of the three typical end-user roles which principles of end-user engagement should be considered good (or bad) practice. We conclude with highlighting promising approaches for end-user engagement that require further testing, as input for a research agenda on end-user engagement in smart grids.

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/content/papers/10.5339/qfarc.2014.ITPP0287
2014-11-18
2019-12-15
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