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DOMINO - Connecting Europe, Saving Energy

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - DOMINO (DOMINO - Connecting Europe, Saving Energy)

Reporting period: 2016-03-01 to 2018-02-28

The new EU Energy Union strategy, adopted in 2015, puts consumers at its core with a vision of an Energy Union “where citizens take ownership of the energy transition, benefit from new technologies to reduce their bills, participate actively in the market.” In this context, the need for a variety of engagement actions was emphasised by the EU to achieve behavioural change towards more sustainable energy choices. However, many citizens know very little about the energy consumption of their household appliances and what behavioural changes could reduce this consumption. Against this background, the DOMINO project aimed at nudging more than 3,400 households from the cities of Brussels, Berlin and Naples towards more energy efficient behaviour. Households were engaged through a “DOMINO smart plug Challenge” in which they formed teams who used smart plugs and a dedicated app to learn about the electricity consumption of their appliances. They also received recommendations for behavioural changes to save energy. Other objectives of the projects were to connect the participating households with each other to nurture peer-learning and strengthen social bonds.
The main conclusions from the DOMINO project are the following: very environmentally minded people tend to be sceptical that electronic equipment such as smart plugs are useful vehicles for reducing environmental impacts of individuals; data protection issues are a strong barrier for adopting smart home technologies in households, especially among environmentally minded individuals; people were most open to test the smart plugs when they learned that it was for research purposes; social media was not an effective channel for recruiting participants for the DOMINO challenge, external events where direct personal communication was possible worked best for recruitment – especially at events that had a focus on science or technology issues; smart home equipment (app, smart plugs) needs to be as user-friendly as possible, otherwise users will quickly lose interest; still, users always need a helpdesk with whom they can discuss their questions.
The following key outputs covering were delivered:
• The project team developed the DOMINO app and an associated database that stored different instructions for behavioural change and baseline data for average consumption per appliance, differentiating among countries and household sizes.
• To address all concerns surrounding data protection, we created a Data Management Plan as a framework for all data handling during the project.
• We produced DOMINO smart plugs for the participating households.
• The plugs and the app were tested by the project team and by households participating in a pilot phase, subsequently we improved the equipment. Overall there were two test phases.
• We designed a Marketing and Communications Strategy that served as a basis for the implementation of off- and online communication campaigns and activities.
• This strategy guided our implementation of outreach activities in Brussels, Berlin, and the metropolitan area of Naples: we held workshops, pitched at co-working spaces, canvassed at farmers markets and trade fairs etc. to invite households to participate in the DOMINO challenge.
• Smart plugs were sent to participants so that they could use them to monitor the electricity consumption of their major appliances. A helpdesk was set up to help participants use the equipment.
The DOMINO Challenge started in July 2017. Participants were provided with the smart plug equipment and started monitoring their energy consumption. However, due to a number of technical and organisational difficulties, the consortium decided to terminate the project at the end of February 2018. Given the reduced lifetime of the project, only around 1,100 households were provided with smart plugs and the DOMINO app. As appliance-specific energy-saving advice was only sent to some participants because of technical problems, only limited amount of data on behavioural change could be collected.
The DOMINO project wanted to assure that around 3,400 households in the three target regions change their behaviour towards a more efficient use of household appliances. After the two cycles of the DOMINO challenge, a total of around 1,100 participants could be reached. However, only around 500 really ended up using the equipment as intended.

Active participants received information about the electricity consumption of their household appliances as well as recommendations on behavioural change. But due to limited feedback and measurement problems little can be said about potential electricity savings that they achieved. Nevertheless, during the outreach activities – online and offline – many individuals could be sensitised for the importance of reducing electricity consumption through behavioural change.

Despite the difficulties in the DOMINO challenge, it became clear that the promotion of energy efficiency among the wider public is a major concern that encounters great interest and requires further support action. While some participants had a good user experience, the challenges encountered in the DOMINO project underline that high usability of smart home devices is paramount if such equipment is to be used for triggering behaviour change. Learnings from DOMINO can serve future activities on using smart home devices for increasing energy efficiency in private households.