Social Power Plus – Empowering electricity and heating savings through co-designed app-based Community Energy Challenges

Households are responsible for 31.4% of total energy consumption and are therefore an important intervention point for the Swiss energy transition. For decades, interventions have aimed at reducing energy demand by focusing on the promotion of technical measures to improve the energy efficiency of buildings, thus neglecting the impact of the occupants’ behaviour in overall energy usage. Achieving the goals of the Energy Strategy 2050, however, also calls upon households to adjust daily energy usage habits towards sufficiency and to decisions to invest in energy-efficient household equipment. Undoubtedly, this profound paradigm shift involves raising more awareness, that in turn can bring about a change in social attitude towards environmental challenges, including climate change, and allow citizens to benefit from the energy transition.

There is a growing tendency to approach consumers no longer as individual agents for change, but rather as socially situated individuals that are part of a wider community. One way to encourage engagement and collaborative action between a group of people is by means of a smartphone application (app), which can be specifically connected to a household smart meter and other energy use sensors for near real-time consumption and savings feedback.

Against this backdrop, the Social Power Plus (SPP) project has the following main goals:

1.    Develop a  Living Lab (January – June 2021) to co-create:

  • SPP Community Energy Challenge that relies on both in-person and digitally based activities to increase awareness of energy consumption and collectively learn how to positively improve energy use and the related CO2 footprint at home and within the community (considering electricity demands for heating and appliances purposes);
  • SPP Toolbox (a smartphone app, fed by electricity/gas smart meter and/or nonintrusive appliance load monitoring – NIALM sensor data) supporting implementation and engagement in the challenge;

2.     Test the effectiveness of the SPP Community Energy Challenge in three real-life pilot tests (2022), assessing the impact in terms of engagement over time, improved awareness, tangible energy savings, and reduction of CO2 footprint;

3.   Develop Guidelines (completed by August 2023) to make the SPP Community Energy Challenge and Digital Toolbox fully available for any interested cities or energy utilities, in a whitelabel version, and favour their upscaling at the national and international level.