The Social Power Plus project officially closed to all participants in May 2023 and since then the data collected has been processed and analysed. A total of 172 households actively participated in the project by downloading and using the app and participating in three accompanying research surveys. In the run-up to the project (spring 2021), the app was developed in a co-design process (3 workshops in each of the 3 regions) together with around 50 customers of the three energy supply companies Stadtwerk Winterthur, EKS and TBW. Participants were encouraged to intensely engage with the app between February – April 2022 through direct feedback on their heating and non-heating energy consumption, bi-weekly Energy Saving Challenges, weekly reminders on their savings, and frequent posts in the app’s pinboard accessible to all users. Following this intense period of learning and practicing energy saving, the app continued to provide personalised consumption feedback until May 2023.
(Source: Centre for Ageing Better on unsplash.com)
To analyse the impact of the app on real-world energy consumption, we:
– Reflected on the co-design process (which we wrote about in a scientific paper here)
– evaluated the three surveys completed by the participants
– analysed the app usage and the pinboard contributions
– compared the changes in energy consumption of the participants with a control group of comparable households.
All these analyses are based on anonymised data. The co-design process provided us with valuable results regarding the preferred app functions (energy consumption feedback, own savings goals, pinboard), but provided us with too little insight into how to attract and motivate people who have less interest in the topic of energy saving. The final app design did attract a variety of people but did not specifically reach those who were not intrinsically motivated to save energy.
In the surveys, we explored energy-relevant activities in the household on the one hand and were able to determine that the oven, the tumble dryer and the dishwasher were used significantly less often, the TV and the computer were used for less time (these results are across the entire group of participating households). Also, the thermostat was set to a lower temperature.
The analyses on app use showed a very different intensity of use across the different participants. In general, however, it can be said that although the frequency of use decreased over time, it could be maintained at a certain level. Only a minority of participants exchanged information on the pinboard and helped each other to address technical problems. A total of 193 pinboard messages were written, 78 of which described an experience during an Energy Saving Challenge offered by the app. The most used functions were checking one’s consumption feedback and setting a new savings target.
The comparison of the energy consumption of the participating households with a control group was made on the one hand for the short-term (April-June 2022) and the long-term effect (January – December 2022). Significant savings of up to 11% (short-term) and about 5% (long-term) were achieved in both cases.
We drew the following conclusions from the surveys, the numerous personal inputs via email or at the online meetings, and the interviews with our partners in the three energy supply companies:
– Feedback on one’s own energy consumption is desired, should be as detailed as possible and, above all, should also enable a long-term comparison with one’s own past consumption.
– Long-lasting behavioural changes aimed at consuming less energy are difficult to address only via an app.
– The smart meter data, which will soon be available for all households, should be made usable for both the households and the energy supply companies; this could be achieved via apps such as Social Power Plus.