Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS



Project ID: 657672
Funded under: H2020-EU.3.3.6.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - NATCONSUMERS (NATural Language Energy for Promoting CONSUMER Sustainable Behaviour)

Reporting period: 2015-05-01 to 2016-04-30

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Residential energy consumption represents the 28% of all EU consumption and if commercial buildings are also considered this percentage increases to 40% (36% of EU CO2 emissions). In this context, is clear that the reduction of consumption in the residential sector should play an important role in energy efficiency programs and policies as is stated in the Energy Efficiency Directive 2012/27/EU. Most energy efficiency measures implemented in Europe involved technological interventions. In contrast, everyday energy-consuming behaviors are largely habitual and therefore the potential of energy savings at home with actions focused in consumer behavior is really promising.

NATCONSUMERS is a project designed to improve feedback to consumers about energy usage within the European residential sector. The project will develop a methodology for communicating more effectively with consumers by using ‘Natural Language’ – communication which is friendly, emotionally intelligent, relevant and simple. This advice will be designed to raise awareness about how people use energy within their homes and to give them advice about how to use energy more sustainable. With the role out of smart metering across Europe, the project will look at incorporating smart meter data to provide advice to householders.
Tailoring of energy advice has been found, through multiple studies, to be much more effective than more general advice provision. Variations in consumers’ characteristics and behaviors lead to heterogeneous energy demands, influenced by both individual preferences and physical variables. Furthermore, framing advice in differing ways for different consumer can improve the likelihood of advice being acted upon. Therefore, NATCONSUMERS will develop a feedback framework which will help energy utilities and third parties to send tailored messages to residential energy consumers, supporting them in increasing energy efficiency.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

The structure of this report follows the composition of the DoA, describing the results achieved so far and highlighting the differences compared to the DoA.
The first work package was about contextualizing the residential energy consumption, and during the first year of the project two workshops were organized, the first one in Oslo in September 2015, and the second one in Madrid in January 2016. At the first workshop organized in Oslo 31 experts, consortium members and external experts participated, and the key take away after the event is a list of actionable factors which will be considered for energy efficiency feedback for residential consumers. Non-actionable factors are those which could hardly be changed or impacted by NATCONSUMERS, such as climate, regulations, price of energy, household income, number of people living in the household etc. Actionable factors are those which represent the scope of our project, including awareness of energy usage, perception of comfort, efficiency of electrical appliances, characteristics of buildings such as insulation, automation of different electrical appliances etc.

At the second workshop organized in Madrid in January 2016 a total of 45 experts, consortium members and external speakers participated, covering all stakeholder groups like energy utilities, regulatory authorities, technology companies and research institutions. The main topics discussed during the workshop included the current status and future plans of smart metering in the different EU countries; accessibility of smart meter data and data privacy regulation in the different countries; presenting ICT solutions to consumer segmentation and sending messages to consumer with the scope to increase their energy efficiency. The workshop provided strong insights to revise NATCONSUMERS plan and include new elements to the program.
The second work package has the aim of building and consolidating a network of stakeholders who will contribute to the project by sharing ideas and helping in dissemination of results. To date, 89 organizations have been contacted and 50 experts from 17 countries accepted the participation in Project Stakeholder Committee (PSC). (See the map with Project Stakeholder Committee attached). As part of this work package a first introductory webinar was organized in November 2016, with 25 participants attending for all parts of Europe, and representing different stakeholder groups like regulators, energy utilities, research organizations and consumer associations. The participants were offered to contribute to the project by participating to the workshops and by sharing with the consortium articles, results of previous EU or national projects which are related to increasing energy efficiency of residential consumers. Some PSC members supported the project by providing anonymous smart meter data of residential energy consumers in Italy (Italian Authority for Electricity, Gas and Water, AEEGSI), Ireland (The Irish Commission for Energy Regulation, CER) and Denmark (utility company Seas NVE).

The third work package is about reviewing methodologies used for energy consumption characterization of residential users. During the first year of the project over 100 academic articles were reviewed, and the most important factors were identified which influences energy consumption. As second step a survey questionnaire was developed based on the learning from academic articles and previous EU projects. Large scale consumer surveys (1000 interviews per country), were conducted in four countries of the EU, in Denmark, Hungary, Italy and the UK.
As first step, the survey data was analyzed and a preliminary report was written comparing the main findings on housing conditions, energy usage behavior, and main drivers of consumer decisions and acceptance of different messaging styles. Saving money proved to be the most important driver in all countries participated in the survey, followed by comfort/convenience and by status consumption / prestige. Key take away for NATCONSUMERS is that for the majority of the consumers a rational language, focused on savings is the most appropriate, and that comparison to neighbors or similar households could be a strong message element too, due to the prestige dimension which is related to energy consumption.
In parallel with the quantitative surveys small qualitative research was conducted in Italy and Hungary, with the objective to understand the reactions of consumers to smart meter based energy saving advises. In Hungary 4, while in Italy 3 focus groups were conducted with consumers aged 30 to 65 years old and being responsible for paying their energy bills. Conclusions from focus groups were presented to consortium members, and they include the following ideas:
• There is a strong interest in energy saving among consumers, most of them having some interesting stories of energy saving by renovation, insulation or changing old appliances.
• Energy savings evoke mainly individual values (saving money), and less collective values (protecting the environment).
• First reaction to smart metering based feedback is fear from intrusion to private life.
• Fear could be reduced or eliminated if the sender is a well-known and trusted organization.

In the fourth work package, we are focusing our activities on characterization of load profiles of residential energy consumers and segmentation of consumers based on energy saving attitudes, habits and norms. To date, we have access to smart meter data from five different countries (UK, Italy, Ireland, Hungary, and Denmark). As the analyses of load profiles (smart meter data) and consumer attitudes (survey data) are currently work in progress, we can describe below the objectives of our analyses. Consumers could be engaged with energy savings only if we are able to send them relevant messages, which fit to their demographic and social situation. Based on the analyses of the load profiles and consumption volumes we will define the content of the message: the “What” to be communicated. Besides, we will run a segmentation based on the attitudes and social norms of energy consumers using the surveys data collected in Hungary, Italy, Denmark and UK, which will provide us with consumers segments who have similar attitudes and similar values related to energy consumption. The attitudinal segmentation will help us to define the style of the message: “How” should be communicated to this consumer segment.
In the last section we will focus on the dissemination and exploitation activities included in WP7. During the first year of the project, considering that the exploitation outcomes will ready in the second year only, we focused our efforts to set up the environment for commercializing the NATCONSUMERS’ results. In this respect, we presented the NATCONSUMERS project to the targeted audience through the dissemination activities, including mainly the project workshops and the third party events we participated in. Particularly, early in the project we developed the dissemination and exploitation plan in order to inform targeted stakeholders in the field of energy about the NATCONSUMERS project results and the benefits they may have, engage stakeholders to the project activities and encourage them to exploit project results aiming to ensure the project sustainability beyond the end of the funding period. The results achieved the first year of the project in terms of dissemination and exploitation are good since during this initial period we managed to meet the following indicative target numbers:
• Members of the NATCONSUMERS community: approx. 150 members
• Organization of 2 successful workshops with approximately 35 external experts each
• Project material downloads from website: 950
• Number of events where NATCONSUMERS was presented: 5 third party events

The NATCONSUMERS dissemination and exploitation strategy will be reviewed and updated on a regular basis to complete and assess new and possible dissemination opportunities that emerge during the course of the project. Any strategy adjustments together with progress in dissemination activities will be reported in the final report.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

NATCONSUMERS incorporates several innovative elements that go beyond the state of the art from a technological and energy perspective.
- Natural language (NL) feedback approach: The key innovative piece of this work is the proposition of a new type of energy feedback based on the use of Natural Language. In that way consumers will receive periodically energy reports and efficiency recommendations in text covering only in aspects that are relevant for the end user in a tailored and understandable way. For achieving this NL reports, partners will develop an advanced linguistic model that will consider and integrate disaggregated consumption data, profiling of the user, the objectives of the communication as well as the history if the discourse.
- Tailored and relevant energy saving advices. Many of the current engagement campaigns implemented for promoting energy sustainability at home are general in nature, providing the same message, services to all consumers, not considering the heterogeneity of consumers profiles in a society. So, they match with the paradigm „one product for all”. It was already concluded by previous projects that the personalization of the feedback has a really positive impact over the energy habits and attitudes of the end-user. In this project the deep characterization of energy consumers will allow the provision of tailored and relevant feedback to them.
- Provision of direct energy efficiency action to the consumers. In the energy reports generated by our envisioned system direct actions to be implemented at home for the reduction of consumption will be included. This makes the difference with previous energy behaviour change programmes as media campaigns or energy efficiency workshops/training or awareness sessions that improved the education and awareness of the participants but after these additional efforts required for changing. So, generally the latter kind of actions are inefficient because the consumer expect direct advices for going to the action.
- User-centred approach. In many former efficiency programmes the approach was directed by the technology (technology-driven activity). This happens in the granting of economical incentives for the insulation of buildings and homes as well as buying efficient appliances. In these cases the reduction is generated from a technological improvement but users are kept as spectators and therefore the influence over their habits is minimal. So, the needs and expectations of users are underestimated and the potential of behaviour change is not considered. On the other hand, we will apply a process led by consumers and where will be situated as key piece of the design. For that purpose, focus groups as well as surveys to consumers are planned and consumer organisations are incorporated to consortium
- Advanced, integral characterization and segmentation of EU energy consumers.: NATCONSUMERS approach for the characterization and classification of consumers considers the integration of user energy profiling information with disaggregated smart meter data. Common approaches in the literature takes into account only one of this information sources and the scope is much smaller. In our case studies, representative surveys implemented in 4 EU countries and smart meter data will be analysed in 5 European countries, reaching a more general and integral approach.
- With the use of our integrated and complex approach the following impact could be expected:
• Protocols, standards, methodologies and suggested policies will be developed and integrated into a complete framework that will be adaptable to each European region.
• Increased awareness of energy consumption and increased motivation to reduce electricity consumption allows achieving energy saving from 20-25%.
• The project provides the basis for further studies about energy end-users, and technological developments and policies focused in increasing public engagement in sustainable habits, and will raise awareness in communities with almost inexistent interest in energy related topics.

Our NATCONSUMERS network is open to external experts and adaptation of the project agenda to their feedback

Related information

Record Number: 190240 / Last updated on: 2016-11-14