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Proak - Proactive Energy Behaviour

Case

Proak - Proactive Energy Behaviour

Can technology help people change energy behaviour?

We have evaluated the effect of energy visulisation concepts in four different housing associations.

Research has shown that energy consumption in council housing can fluctuate up to 300 per cent in identically designed flats. It is therefore essential to understand consumers’ energy behaviour to be able to reduce energy consumption.

Can new technology change people’s behaviour – and if so, how can this be achieved? This was the topic of the Proak project where we conducted a cross-disciplinary efficiency evaluation of a number of energy visualisation concepts implemented in the four housing associations.

Start date: 01-01-2014 / End date: 01-09-2015

Four different Danish council housing associations introduced a number of energy visualisation concepts to help the residents save energy. Advanced energy technology and other instruments were used to make energy consumption visible to the residents, who also received guidance on how to change energy behaviour. Technologies included web applications, apps and tablets etc., which enabled the residents to view and manage their own energy consumption.

The purpose of our evaluation was to analyse if, why and how the energy visualisation concepts had the desired effect. The project mapped the underlying mechanisms that may (or may not) motivate people to change energy behaviour. In other words: What works for whom and under what circumstances?

Based on these findings, the project provided the council housing sector with knowledge and recommendations for how to motivate different types of residents and communities to change energy behavour and how to target the technologies accordingly.

During the project, we interacted with the residents for a period of two years through home visits, interviews, participant observation and a questionnaire. We combined these insights with meter data. In this way, we were able to see how the residents used the technologies and if they changed energy behavour over time.  

The evaluation was based on the method of Innovative Evaluation and the Model of Change. Both methods have been developed by the Alexandra Institute.

The project is also used as a case in our paper The Model of Change – understanding the how and why of change.

Our deliverable to the housing associations included a number of recommendations for how to design energy visualisations. The main point is that it has to be as simple as possible for the residents to access their consumption statements, both technically and visually. Login must not be too complicated, and the statements must be easy to read.

We also pointed out that energy visualisation is not the only means that may contribute to changing people’s energy behaviour. Other factors play an important role as well, and these include:  

  • General condition of buildings
  • Relationship between the residents and the housing association
  • Residents’ prerequisites and motivation for participating in the initiative

The project has published a report, guidelines and a leaflet of tools and recommendations (in Danish only).

In the PROAK project we have worked together with Energi og Miljø.

The project was funded by the former Danish Ministry of Housing, Urban and Rural Affairs.

Knowledge about people’s energy behaviour is crucial for reducing energy consumption. 
Contact us to learn more.

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