A living lab process, that is a real-world “laboratory” for experimenting and testing new designs through co-creation between researchers, technology developers, and citizens, was run between January and June 2021 involving households in the three partner regions (Winterthur, Wil, Schaffhausen) to co-design the Social Power Plus Community Energy Challenge and the features of the Social Power Plus app. The living lab took place through three meetings, over a period of about six months, and was run in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, in the districts of the utilities joining Social Power Plus as implementation partners (Wil, Winterthur and Schaffhausen districts, respectively with Technische Betriebe Wil (TBW), Stadtwerk Winterthur and EKS). The goal at the co-design stage was to engage ten to twenty inhabitants per region.
In parallel to the co-design in the living lab, the tools supporting the Social Power Plus Community Energy Challenge (the Social Power Plus app and the sensor-related energy consumption disaggregation algorithms) were developed by professional software developers and researchers. Therefore, the first meetings of the living lab focused on brainstorming and getting familiar with energy demand, while the later workshops focused on developing and testing the Social Power Plus app prototype.
The Social Power Plus Community Energy Challenge has now been fully designed and the related Toolbox has been fully developed and tested: from February 2022 the Community Energy Challenge will be tested in real-world trials in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, again with the support of the TBW (Wil, Canton St. Gallen), Stadtwerk Winterthur (Winterthur, Canton Zurich) and EKS (Schaffhausen, Canton Schaffhausen) utility companies.