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Journal of Cleaner Production 130 (2016) 25e34

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Effects of customized consumption feedback on energy efcient

behaviour in low-income households
Ales Podgornik a, *, Boris Sucic a, Bostjan Blazic b
Jozef Stefan Institute, Energy Efciency Centre, Jamova 39, 1000, Ljubljana, Slovenia
Faculty of Electrical Engineering, University of Ljubljana, Trzaska 25, 1000, Ljubljana, Slovenia

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: Smart metering and various consumption-feedback systems can be used as applicable technology to
Received 19 March 2015 encourage end-use energy efciency in the residential sector. Many studies have demonstrated the
Received in revised form positive inuence of socially contextualized feedback on the energy consumption of households, but not
29 January 2016
many such studies dealt with the specics of low-income households. This paper evaluates the effect of
Accepted 2 February 2016
Available online 6 February 2016
customized consumption feedback and other information interactions on energy-behaviour patterns and
energy savings in low-income households. The experimentation process was accompanied by an inter-
active awareness campaign, with the emphasis being on a proper understanding of the consumption
Consumption feedback
feedback and other complementary energy services provided to low-income households. The feedback
Energy behaviour actions were customized to tackle the recognised needs of each specic target household, considering
Low-income households both the social aspects and the typology of the dwelling. The results clearly conrmed the importance of
Smart meters customized information and efciency indicators for specic household groups, with a potential to in-
Energy awareness crease knowledge and develop awareness with respect to established habits and their relevance to
energy behaviour.
2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction Vorsatz et al. (2009), different non-technological determinants

lead to different levels of energy consumption even within the
Energy efciency has been recognised as an essential element of same technological setting. Jonsson et al. (2011) have concluded
the European Union's (EU) energy and climate change mitigation that non-technological drivers can be as important, or even more
policies. The EU has identied buildings as being the most prom- important, than the technologies used in determining the energy
ising target for improving energy efciency and has quantied a consumption in buildings. Research conducted by Ouyang and
signicant energy-savings potential associated with infrastructure Hokao (2009) has shown that about 14% of the energy savings in
and equipment investments (27% in the residential sector and 30% households could be achieved simply by improving the residents'
in the services sector) (EC, 2006). As households and buildings are energy behaviour. According to Wood and Newborough (2003), it is
responsible for over 40% of energy usage, there is a need to develop worth to invest additional efforts in optimising the design and
new approaches that examine the energy use in homes and to assessing the use of energy-consumption indicators in households,
encourage energy efcient behaviour, in addition to using energy in order to maximise the associated energy-saving potential. Darby
efcient devices in households (Chen et al., 2013). Also, the soft (2006) has identied several behavioural-change programmes that
organisational potentials for energy efciency improvements are have indicated that energy savings of up to 20% could be achieved
often neglected in policies both at the national and at the local level by applying different information strategies or by using improved
(Bukarica and Robi c, 2013). Improvement of energy efciency re- feedback. However, even though the behaviour of residential end-
quires informed consumers and awareness among all segments of users is one of major determinants with respect to energy use in
society as well as tailored information, education and training for buildings, the energy-savings potential based on behaviour re-
selected stakeholders (Gynther et al., 2012). According to rge- mains neglected (Levine et al., 2007). To effectively plan and
execute energy-efciency programs, a sound understanding of the
determinants factors that drive household energy consumption
* Corresponding author. Tel.: 386 1 5885 300.
E-mail address: (A. Podgornik). (such as the type, number and use of appliances, oor area, average
0959-6526/ 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
26 A. Podgornik et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 130 (2016) 25e34

outside temperature, and number of occupants) is needed (Firth work was inspired by the recommendations proposed by Caeiro
et al., 2008). A more individualized social understanding and the et al. (2012), who suggested that future research should focus on
rationalities behind the households' energy consumption are the need to communicate effectively, to engage stakeholders and to
needed in order to specify the different consumption patterns. It is address the complexity involved in the measurement and assess-
important to be aware that a necessary precondition for informa- ment of sustainable household energy consumption. The general
tion about the relationship between the end-user's behaviour and objective was to check whether additional information about en-
the corresponding energy use is the specication of the technical ergy use provided to LIHs can stimulate them to reach measurable
features of the appliances for a given household, in combination energy savings without any additional investments in new equip-
with individual monitoring (Vassileva et al., 2012). Furthermore, to ment. Selected households provided a real testing environment,
take full advantage of energy-efciency programs, they have to be with the full support of the occupants, and open access to all
adapted to the various segments of residential customers. Low- requested data for the validation of the customized feedback and
income households (LIHs) are one of those segments that have to for the promotion of electricity-consumption awareness in LIHs.
be specially targeted, due to their social constraints, and are According to Eisenhardt and Graebner (2007), this represents an
considered as far to reach through traditional public policies (Elih- opportunity with unusual levels of research access. It has to be
MED, 2010). Understanding the ne-grained differences within a aware the open access experimentation typically engages a much
targeted income group can direct utility and municipal communi- smaller sample than would normally be considered adequate for
cation efforts with greater effect (Mazur-Stommen et al., 2013). This inductive hypothesis testing. However, as it was shown by Langevin
understanding has to be used when adapting local energy- et al. (2013), open access provides a rich foundation on which to
efciency policies to encourage energy-efciency improvements base a follow up efforts, and identify key pieces of contextual in-
and striving for a more sustainable society. A sustainable society formation that would otherwise be missed by a purely quantitative
can be assumed to be a society which consists of a sustainable method for behavioural data collection.
production system, a sustainable community, a sustainable
ecosystem, and a sustainable government (Shin et al., 2008). With 2. Energy efcient behaviour
this in mind, utilities can offer individualized consumption feed-
back to encourage people in LIHs to become more aware of their When referring to energy-related behaviours, there are always
energy consumption and stimulate them to change their energy- two implicit dimensions, i.e., the behaviour in itself and the asso-
related behaviour. Utility companies and municipal authorities ciated energy consumption, in which the second is a consequence
should include an individual behavioural-assessment approach to of the rst, and quanties it (Lopes et al., 2012). While the adoption
the energy consumption of households when developing energy- of new energy efcient technologies relates to investments, the
savings strategies and measures (Vassileva et al., 2012). Local regular use of appliances is related to habitual behaviour. This
climate conditions also represent a signicant factor for residential habitual behaviour is automatic and routine, and is the way in
energy consumption. According to Vassileva et al. (2012), a which individuals repeat and do things automatically without
household's income is one of the most important determinants consciously weighing up the pros and cons, usually delivering
with respect to consumer behaviour for northern European climate suboptimal results in terms of energy efciency (Fischer, 2008). In
conditions, and it has been conrmed that a higher income results this context, the household can be seen as a system where system
in greater electricity consumption. On the other hand, Kavousian efciencies rest on a combination of technology and behavioural
et al. (2013) have recently shown that the residential electricity intelligence that reacts dynamically to its surroundings (Elliott
consumption in United States is primarily determined through the et al., 2012).
way households use electricity, and less by the way that they value
energy efciency and that there is no signicant correlation be- 2.1. Impact of consumption feedback on behaviour
tween electricity consumption and income level. Research con-
ducted by Beunder and Groot (2015) on a large sample of Dutch Strategies for promoting more efcient energy behaviour
households, have conrmed that household's cultural background have been categorised as antecedent or consequence strategies
signicantly categorized the level of electricity consumption. The (Abrahamse et al., 2005). Antecedent interventions are designed
general conclusion is that when analysing energy consumption, to change factors that precede behaviour and usually include a
particular attention should be paid to the individual characteristics commitment and information to increase awareness. According
of the inhabitants, i.e., households should be treated individually. to Ueno et al. (2006), the installation of an on-line Energy-
The consumption feedback and recommendations to reduce Consumption Information System has an inuence on the
household energy consumption should be represented by different energy-saving awareness of consumers. Consequence in-
determinants that are important for the household, while leaving terventions focus on changing the consequences following
behind the unimportant, because those can have an adverse effect behaviour and usually include energy-consumption feedback
(Desmedt et al., 2009). and different rate systems (in the form of nancial rewards).
This paper evaluates the impact of customized and adaptive The role of consumption feedback is to provide information
consumption feedback on energy-behaviour patterns and energy about energy consumption and to make it visible. According to
savings in LIHs in the Mediterranean region. In this context, LIHs Fischer (2008), successful feedback has to capture the con-
are recognised as households that are most vulnerable to fuel sumers' attention, draw a close link between specic actions
poverty. The experiments and data presented in this paper are re- and their effects, and activate various motives that may appeal
sults of the EU-funded project ELIH-Med (Energy efciency in low- to different consumer groups (such as cost savings, resource
income housing in Mediterranean). ELIH-Med project concluded in conservation, emissions reduction, competition, and others).
2014 and has been identied as a strategic project within the MED Consumption feedback has to activate a process called norm
Programme with the objective to identify innovative energy ef- activation for new norms and considerations to enter the
ciency measures and nancial instruments for LIHs in Mediterra- conscious decision-making process (Matthies, 2005). This
nean. Implemented feedback actions were customized to tackle the means that inefcient habits must be broken and a person must
recognised needs of each specic target household, considering realize that there are various options to choose from, and that
both social aspects and dwelling typology. The described research norms and criteria are needed for evaluating these options
A. Podgornik et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 130 (2016) 25e34 27

(Fischer, 2008). Through a norm activation process, end-users (2007), inconsistencies in energy related behaviour in households
become aware of the relevance of their behaviour and its rela- can be explained by:
tion to energy consumption, the possibilities to sustainably in-
uence personal behaviour and the environmental issues - Time inconsistency: End-users do not make decisions in a time-
associated with energy consumption (Fig. 1). According to consistent manner using constant discount rates.
Rodrguez-Barreiro et al. (2013), environmental behaviour is - Bounded rationality and heuristic decision making: End-users
considered to be a set of effective, deliberate, and anticipated are rational but face cognitive constraints in processing in-
actions aimed at accepting responsibility for the conservation formation; therefore, they tend to use a wide range of heu-
and preservation of nature and natural resources. Research ristics (simple decision rules) to reduce the cognitive
conducted by Lopes et al. (2012) has shown that there is no requirements.
single and perfect form of feedback for everybody and that - Framing and reference dependence: End-users' decisions are
feedback should be tailored according to the specics of each inuenced by the way information is presented to them e
customer group and the various regional differences. different results may be obtained simply by framing the deci-
Tailored and continuous consumption feedback is also sion as a choice between losses or gains.
important to minimize the danger of the fall-back effect. The fall-
back effect is dened as the phenomenon in which the newness One of the reasons for such inconsistencies and irrational
of a change causes people to react, but then that reaction di- choices is that human behaviour is often guided by habits, i.e.,
minishes as the newness wears off (Hayes and Cone, 1977). There not fully conscious forms of behaviour. This may be one of the
is also a danger of the rebound effect, when energy-efciency reasons why energy consumption continues to increase despite
measures reduce the operational costs of dwellings. The the rising environmental awareness among the end-users
rebound effect is a postulate that people increase their use of (Marechal, 2010). Habits do mediate the intentionebehaviour
products and facilities as a result of this reduction in operating relationship in the eld of residential energy consumption and
costs, thereby reducing the energy savings achieved by imple- this tends to conrm that the presence of strong habits can
mented energy-efciency measures (Nadel, 2012). In spite of explain the low effectiveness of traditional measures, such as
considerable data restraints and research gaps, there are some incentives (Mare chal, 2009). Habits should therefore be fully
indications that the most successful feedback for households acknowledged and accounted for prior to designing energy-
combines the following features: appliance-specic consumption efciency measures in the residential sector. Also, there is evi-
breakdown, historical comparison, presentation in a clear and dence that households will return to their old consumption
appealing way, and the use of computerized and interactive tools habits if they cannot see the impact of their behavioural changes
(Fischer, 2008). in their electricity bill or if the savings are not considered to be
worth the bother (Annala et al., 2014).
As habits are context dependent, the change of the context and
2.2. Breaking the habits circumstances in which habits were developed can offer a way for
changing them (Wood et al., 2005). Also, successful interventions
The premise behind different time-of-use (TOU) tariff systems is need to target not only change of old, unwanted behaviours but also
that consumers will behave rationally, in the sense that they the maintenance of new, more desirable responses (Verplanken
maximise a utility given incentives and that their preferences are and Wood, 2006). However, changes of context do not make
well organised, recognised, stable and consistent. Faruqui et al. habits change, either automatically or directly, but they are better
viewed as windows of opportunity (Mare chal, 2010). This win-
(2010) have shown that the real-time monitoring, enabled by in-
home displays (IHD) can reduce electricity consumption by 7.6% dow could be opened by implementing different energy-efciency
when combined with TOU tariffs, whereas 6.7% savings were ach- measures (i.e., retrotting a building) and joined by individualized
ieved when only IHDs were used and 3.3% savings were achieved consumption-feedback and awareness campaigns to break the
when only TOU pricing was used. However, there are evidences consumers' habits.
that consumers do not always make consistent and rational de-
cisions, even if they are given perfect information (Lopes et al., 3. Methods
2012). In this context, behavioural failures are considered to
represent consumer behaviour that is inconsistent with utility In the addressed Mediterranean regions the need for heating is
maximization or with energy-service cost minimization relatively low, at least compared to the northern countries, and only
(Gillingham et al., 2009). According to Wilson and Dowlatabadi the electricity-consumption feedback was targeted in the experi-
ment due to there being no gas and district-heating infrastructure
in the pilot dwellings. Three types of electricity-consumption
feedback presentation were used in the selected dwellings to
target the desired actions of the consumer:

- Presentation as a consumption problem. The electricity con-

sumption was presented relative to the number of people living
in the household, the appliances used (appliance-specic
monitoring was required) and the base load of the household
was calculated. The base load of the household was dened as
the consumption state when only always-on appliances are
operating (i.e., refrigerator, freezer, PC in stand-by, etc.).
- Presentation as an environment problem. The annual household
CO2 emissions were calculated from the electricity consumption
using country specic CO2 emission factors. The CO2 indicators
Fig. 1. Norm activation. were then presented relative to how many trees are needed to
28 A. Podgornik et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 130 (2016) 25e34

absorb produced CO2 per each household. It was assumed that different domains, providing guidance via illustrative best practices
the average yearly CO2 absorption is around 10 kg CO2 per tree. and providing nancial and non-nancial incentives.
- Presentation as a family-budget problem. In this type of pre-
sentation, electricity consumption was indicated in direct costs
3.1. Pre-installation
relative to the number of people living in the household and
the appliances used. It was assumed that these indicators could
An awareness campaign has been launched (posters, brochures,
be particularly important for LIHs, as even a small indication of
yers, information points, informative meetings, web platform) in
the energy-costs savings can have a signicant impact on the
the pre-installation phase to motivate the households participating
household budget.
in the experiment as part of the norm-activation process. In case of
multi-apartment buildings information campaigns were designed
Also, two different use cases for the consumption-feedback
to target all and not just selected pilot households. Also, designated
services were used in the experiment:
local representatives were selected to coordinate the building's
activities (organization of education and awareness sessions, co-
1. Appliance-specic consumption breakdown with a simple kWh,
ordination of the installation process between the installers and the
CO2 and costs presentation of the electricity consumption on
users, etc.). The general idea behind this approach was to provoke a
IHDs in 100 selected households. Web access with additional
positive it can be done attitude among all building occupants and
consumption breakdown was also made available. Individual-
it was estimated that properly trained local representatives can
ized periodic reports (efciency indicators) were distributed to
have a positive role in the motivation process. The awareness
the users.
campaign was followed by a survey in selected pilot households.
2. Utility smart meters were used as the main focus point of the
This question-based survey was used to determine the economic
consumption monitoring in 25 pilot households. Informative
and social status of the users, the dwelling typology and other
billing was used as the main consumptionefeedback medium
technical characteristics of the household (i.e., the appliances used
and individualized periodic reports (efciency indicators) were
in the household). The survey was also used to establish an initial
distributed to the users. These pilots are further involved in
understanding regarding the users' habits with respect to appliance
complementary energy services utilizing Mediterranean-
specic climate conditions (installation of photovoltaic system
In each participating household a walk-through energy audit
based on Net metering scheme).
(half a day) was conducted. Also, this phase was used to establish
the baseline electricity consumption of the selected households.
The selection of the pilot households that were participating
The data was obtained (with the users' consent) from electricity
in the consumption-feedback experimentation was based on the
utilities or building managers (in the case of social housing) for the
low-income criteria (household members do not have sufcient
previous three years (from 2010 to 2012) and was normalised to
resources or access to credit in order to invest in energy ef-
average climatic conditions in respective regions. Vital output from
ciency), the age of the building (20 years or older) and the
this phase was an identication of individual and group level bar-
location (Mediterranean area). The households were selected
riers and constraints on energy efcient actions at the household
with tenders and participated in an experimentation process on a
level and preparation of plan how to cope and overcome them.
voluntary basis. The 100 pilot dwellings selected for rst use case
were located in Malaga (44 in Andalusia, Spain), Valencia (16 in
Valencia, Spain), Mas Thibert (25 in d'Arles, France) and Malta 3.2. Installation of the consumption-monitoring equipment and the
(15 dwellings). Unfortunately, in 14 households (12 in Malaga feedback medium
and 2 in Mas Thibert) key elements (ownership, number and
education of occupants) changed during the experimentation The equipment-installation phase was used to install the
phase and that was a reason why they were eliminated from the monitoring equipment (smart meters and IHDs) and educate the
experiment. The 25 pilot dwellings for second use case were participating households about equipment usage. The end-users
located in Cyprus. It is important to emphasise that selected became familiar with the installed smart-metering equipment
buildings and households previously have never participated in and understood how they can use the feedback information to
any other energy efciency campaign and no investments in manage their electricity consumption effectively. Also, during this
efcient household equipment have been made during the phase the main ndings from the walk-through energy audit were
observed baseline period. presented to the household occupants. In all addressed dwellings
An important milestone in the presented research was the special attention was given to the appliance-specic consumption
design of the consumption-feedback experimentation plan. Ac- and end-users were able to decide which appliances would be
cording to this plan, three distinct phases of interactions with monitored in their dwellings. Their decisions were based on the
selected LIH pilot dwellings were recognised: information provided during the awareness campaign in the pre-
installation phase. The most common appliances selected by the
1. The pre-installation. users were air-conditioning units, electric heaters (heating and
2. The installation of the consumption-monitoring equipment and domestic hot-water preparation), refrigerators, microwave ovens,
the feedback medium. personal computers and televisions.
3. The monitoring and living-lab activities. Commercially available IHDs were used to provide individual-
ized, appliance level and real-time feedback in the targeted
The interaction phases were designed as an interactive pro- dwellings where the electrical infrastructure was not optimal for
gramme to inuence the energy awareness and related behaviour at sophisticated and centralized approaches to monitoring. Installed
all stages of the experimentation (Fig. 2). This approach incorporates system included a numerical IHD that was proven to be the best at
the main objectives of the Household Sustainable Consumption (HSC) providing information about energy-use changes compared to the
assessment metrics and indicator system (Caeiro et al., 2012), with the analogue and ambient designs (Chiang et al., 2012). Commercially
emphasis on providing easily comprehensible and meaningful infor- available utility smart meters and data loggers were used in the
mation to the users, using an integrative approach among the second use case.
A. Podgornik et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 130 (2016) 25e34 29

Fig. 2. Interaction phases.

3.3. Monitoring and living-lab activities different electricity suppliers, etc.). Based on the initial response to
the individualized bulletins, an additional adjustment of the con-
This phase was used to monitor the impact of the implemented sumption feedback was made during this phase (the adjustment of
consumption-feedback services on the LIHs' behaviour. The mea- the presented consumption indicators and the rearrangement of
sures were adjusted according to the responses from the house- the monitored household appliances). The monitoring was per-
holds, facilitating the living-lab approach to ne-tune the different formed from the beginning of 2013 until the end of 2014.
smart-metering services to the different households (i.e., the
impact of social, cultural and regional differences). The results of 3.4. Window of opportunity
the pre-installation phase survey were used to prepare and issue
individual (building-specic) bulletins (Fig. 3). Several energy- In parallel with the consumption feedback experimentation
efciency indicators were presented in these bulletins (i.e., elec- selected pilot dwellings on Cyprus were invited to participate in
tricity consumption in observed period and by appliance, bench- complementary measures like installation of photovoltaic system
mark with neighbours) and individualized energy-efciency and based on Net metering scheme. These additional activities were
energy-costs saving tips were suggested (i.e., how to use timers/ used in the consumption-feedback experiment as a window of
automation for household-specic appliances, presentation of opportunity to change the household context, i.e., to break existing

Fig. 3. Information bulletin examples.

30 A. Podgornik et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 130 (2016) 25e34

Fig. 4. Window of opportunity.

habits (Fig. 4). The awareness campaign also included information

on available nancing programs for some other energy-efciency Fig. 6. Household structure.
measures which can be implemented by LIH (i.e., nancial in-
centives for LIH to purchase new and efcient refrigerators).
household (including single-parent families), whereas Family
indicates more than two adults living in the same household. The
4. Results category Couple indicates two adults living together.

4.1. Households survey

4.1.3. Dwelling characteristic
The dwelling typology and the ownership of participating LIHs
Information about the dwellings' typology, living conditions,
are presented in Fig. 7. This gure clearly shows the high percent-
residents' characteristics, and habits were collected through a
age of ownership in the Mediterranean area even in the low-
questionnaire-based survey. The questionnaire covered the
income category. However, due to the low income of the tenants,
following topics:
these dwellings are frequently neglected and provide poor living
- Economic status of the household members.
The use of air conditioning and heating sources is presented in
- Social characteristics of the residents and the typology of the
Fig. 8. The climatic conditions of the Mediterranean are the reason
household (household members, age, education and employ-
for the higher use of air-conditioning units, which are present in
ment, type of property, number of rooms, size of dwelling, type
60% of the participating LIHs.
of ownership, year of construction, internet access) including
energy-related habits (cooking and temperature comfort).
- Technical properties of the dwelling (type of heating/cooling 4.2. Households electricity consumption
and domestic hot water, audit of household appliances and their
usage, type of lightning). Table 1 shows the household electricity consumption for the
LIHs participating in the experiment and the national averages
One of the purposes for the careful household categorization (Spain, Cyprus, France and Malta) obtained from the Odyssee-Mure
was to enable long-term comparisons with an average, normalized project database (Lapillonne et al., 2013).
or benchmarked consumer in the same user category. The need for To better understand the consumption habits of the LIHs and
this comparison is specied in the Energy Efciency Directive electricity-savings potential, electricity consumption per house-
(Directive, 2012/27/EU). hold member was calculated. Fig. 9 shows the distribution of
electricity consumption per household member relative to the size
of the household.
4.1.1. Income type
The income diversity of the participating LIHs is presented in
4.3. Savings achieved
Fig. 5. All pilot households were classied as low-income, even in
the cases of full employment.
In the rst use case awareness-raising activities about energy
efciency were performed in parallel with the consumption-
4.1.2. Household structure feedback experimentation. In case of Malaga (Spain), where the
The structure of the participating LIHs is presented in Fig. 6. The pilot households were located in multi-apartment buildings, in-
category Family with children indicates underage children in the formation campaigns were designed to target all and not just

Fig. 5. Household income. Fig. 7. Dwelling typology and ownership.

A. Podgornik et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 130 (2016) 25e34 31

Fig. 8. Use of air conditioning and heating sources.

Fig. 9. LIH electricity consumption per person.

selected pilot households. As a result of the awareness campaigns

which started in 2013, there was a 12.1% decrease in the overall
electricity consumption for the whole building (140 dwellings) in
2013 and 13.3% in 2014 (Fig. 10). Selected pilot dwellings in this
building were equipped with IHDs in 2013, and these were
receiving an individualized bi-monthly efciency bulletin. These
dwellings achieved a 13.6% decrease in electricity consumption in
2013 and a total decrease of 22.4% was achieved in 2014 (Fig. 11).
Local representatives acknowledged that the occupants highly
appreciated comparative feedback enriched with efciency in-
dicators and graphic representation of billing information
compared to consumption in comparable past periods, to average
consumption in the past year, and correlated to the inside and
outside temperature difference. It is clear that customised con-
sumption feedback provided occupants with new knowledge and Fig. 10. Yearly electricity consumption e reference with the awareness campaign.
empowered them to reach additional savings.
Impact of the age structure has been evaluated in a building
with predominantly retired residents in Valencia (Spain). Similar to used in the calculations (the photovoltaic production was not
the case above, all the dwellings (56 dwellings in total) in this subtracted from the household's electricity usage). During the
particular building were targeted by awareness activities and 16 awareness campaigns, the local experts trained end-users to
pilot dwellings with retired residents were equipped with IHDs and properly understand their load diagrams and connect usage of
were receiving an individualized bi-monthly efciency bulletin. different appliances' with their behaviour. At the beginning of this
These pilots exposed the inefciency of the IHDs in this social process it was noticed that all pilot households were completely
segment (elderly people with low incomes). As a result of the unaware of opportunities for energy savings in their homes. This
awareness campaigns, there was a 10.2% decrease in the electricity unawareness of opportunities was the main challenge for the local
consumption in 2014 on average for the whole building, but no experts who were supporting selected pilot households during the
additional savings were observed for 16 pilot households with experimentation process. However, it is important to mention that
IHDs. all pilot households provided strong support and extra good will
In the second use case the inuence of the informative billing during the entire experimentation process. The pilot households
was evaluated in 25 LIHs in Cyprus where 11 of these dwellings provided only with informative billing (14 households in total)
were additionally equipped with a photovoltaic system at the end achieved a 24.2% decrease in electricity consumption in 2013. A
of 2013. These 11 pilots were involved in a utility Net metering decrease of 27.4% was achieved in 2014 (Fig. 12).
scheme. This scheme allows residential customers who generate Local experts who were working with pilot households involved
their own electricity from solar power to feed the electricity that in the Net metering scheme (11 households in total) acknowledged
they do not use back into the grid and the meter offsets the that the households' occupants after installation of photovoltaic
production-consumption of electricity. As a result, these customers system were more active in trying to make sense of consumption
pay only the net amount for both transactions. Awareness-raising data and provided information in order to develop their own un-
activities on energy efciency were performed in parallel with derstanding of inuencing parameters that have resulted in an
the consumption-feedback experimentation. The total consump- observed data pattern or in an unexpected operational event. It was
tion for the household involved in the Net metering scheme was recognised that proper training and motivation were necessary to

Table 1
Average electricity consumption per dwelling.

[kWh/year] Spain (n 48) Cyprus (n 25) France (n 23) Malta (n 15)

LIH pilots 3,078 4,928 3,972 2,788

Odyssee-Mure average 3,800 5,500 5,650 4,850
Difference [%] 19.0% 10.4% 29.7 42.5%
32 A. Podgornik et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 130 (2016) 25e34

Fig. 11. Yearly electricity consumption e pilots with IHDs. Fig. 13. Yearly electricity consumption e pilots with informative billing and Net

trigger the change in people attitude towards energy use in order to

cut energy costs through more efcient and responsible operation
of household appliances, especially during summer months when heating/cooling when excess consumption was indicated on the
the majority of electricity is consumed for cooling. At the end of the IHD).
experimentation process, it was recorded that the pilot households - Awareness of current consumption and the households' envi-
involved in the Net metering scheme achieved a greater con- ronmental footprint has instigated behavioural changes and a
sumption decrease for both years, almost 30% in 2013 and 36.4% in clear interest in additional energy-efciency measures to be
2014 (Fig. 13). However, it has to be aware that before drawing any implemented in the households.
other conclusion the approach presented and additional analysis - Multiplying the effect of complementary energy-efciency
should be carried out for a large group of similar buildings. measures. When an additional energy-efciency measure is
implemented (i.e., the installation of a photovoltaic system), the
consumption feedback additionally motivates the users to adapt
their behaviour to the implemented technical updates and
5. Discussion

The LIHs participating in the consumption-feedback experi-

Although the interest in using an IHD with real-time con-
mentation have shown a great interest in energy-efciency im-
sumption and appliance-specic consumption has reduced with
provements. All proposed actions were explained in the pre-
time, the appliance-specic metering was well received when
installation phase and the users' reactions were positive. Equally
presented in the periodic efciency bulletin with the appliance-
important was the community involvement. Including represen-
specic consumption breakdown and other efciency tips. The
tatives of the local community in the preparations and awareness
residents of the pilot households rated the periodic bulletin on
campaigns has proved to be a crucial point in the transfer of sus-
energy efciency and electricity consumption as the best
tainable ideas. Initial scepticism and fear of government control,
consumption-feedback activity of the consumption-feedback
which was particularly present in LIHs, has turned into enthusiasm
experimentation. The breakdown of the electricity-consumption
and a desire to cooperate. Building a foundation of trust is needed
costs per appliance was rated as the most valuable feedback in-
in this social segment and awareness campaigns should be used
formation by the users, whereas CO2-related indicators were
when tackling distrust issues.
mostly disregarded. Therefore, the use of simple efciency in-
The three main recognizable benets for the participating LIHs
dicators is recommended in LIHs, concentrating on the costs of
have been experienced during the living-lab activities:
energy consumption. Also, early achievement of certain visible re-
sults was proved to be very important and boosted the condence
- Users have become aware of the consumption of individual
of household occupants.
appliances and expressed surprise about their impact on the
Cultural background had a major impact on living habits.
monthly electricity bill (i.e., users started to turn down the
Traditional habits are hard to break and represent one of the
greatest obstacles when it comes to changing energy behaviour.
This is evident in the LIH pilots with retired residents, who
refused to accept new technologies into their daily life. Therefore,
the utilization of the so-called window of opportunity by
merging different energy-efciency measures must be combined
with proper understating of the implementation context. The
optimum results for breaking habits can be achieved by
combining individualized consumption feedback (informative
billing and/or the periodic energy-efciency bulletin) and the
targeted awareness campaign on energy efciency. These cam-
paigns must target the LIHs specically (the economic con-
straints), and take cultural specics into account. It is important
to be aware that LIHs tend to see monitoring as an intrusion of
their privacy. Therefore, a further sociological research/evalua-
tion of this social group is needed. It has to be combined with
Fig. 12. Yearly electricity consumption e pilots with informative billing. awareness raising and providing individualized consumption
A. Podgornik et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 130 (2016) 25e34 33

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