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Feedback measures will increase end users’ awareness and transparency about their own levels of energy consumption. Combined with practical tips for energy-efficient user behaviour and its potential energy and cost savings in appliances, feedback and other measures can motivate users to change their behaviour, but also to invest in energy saving technologies. Feedback was shown to be more effective when social marketing techniques, benchmarking, normative messages, practical information and similar measures targeting behaviour change were applied.
Important instruments for providing feedback on energy consumption levels are, for instance, individual metering, smart metering, and informative/comparative billing.
Other measures targeting user behaviour include; prompts, motivation campaigns for behaviour change, energy saving competitions, and training of users on energy-intelligent use of appliances.
Experience in many countries, including recent reviews on feedback programmes in the USA and Canada, show electricity and fuel savings in the range of 5% to 15%. Feedback and other measures often need to be continued or repeated to secure such savings.
Feedback measures aim to increase end users’ awareness and transparency about their own levels of energy consumption. Combined with the emphasis on the impact of user behaviour on the energy performance of an appliances, feedback and other measures can motivate users to change their behaviour, but also to invest in energy saving technologies. They have been implemented at trans-national, national, regional, and local levels all over the world.
Feedback and other measures targeting behaviour cover a range of practices, including individual metering, smart metering with feedback on tips where to save, and informative/comparative billing as well as prompts, motivation campaigns for behaviour change with practical tips for energy-efficient user behaviour and its potential energy and cost savings, energy saving competitions, and training for users (mainly in the service sector). The measures work more effective for encouraging users’ energy saving behaviour and uptaking of energy efficiency technologies, when they are combined with other instruments, such as energy advice, minimum energy performance standards, mandatory comparative labelling schemes, financial incentives, etc.
Experience in many countries, including recent reviews on feedback programmes in the USA and Canada, show electricity and fuel savings in the range of 5% to 15%. Given their potential of changing users’ behaviour, feedback and other measures on behaviour can be cost-effective. However, for the deployment of new technologies such as smart meters, its cost-effectiveness still needs to be carefully assessed considering the conditions in different countries. Furthermore, the danger of snap-back effects is particularly high for this type of measure: energy savings will be lost, if users fall back to previous, less energy-efficient behaviour and routines. Feedback and other measures therefore often need to be continued or repeated to secure the savings.
Feedback measures aim to increase end users’ awareness and transparency about their own levels of energy consumption. Combined with practical tips for energy-efficient user behaviour and its potential energy and cost savings, feedback and other measures can motivate users to change their behaviour, but also to invest in energy saving technologies. Feedback measures cover a range of practices, including individual metering, smart metering with feedback on tips where to save, and informative/comparative billing as well as prompts, motivation campaigns for behaviour change with practical tips for energy-efficient user behaviour and its potential energy and cost savings, energy saving competitions, and training for users (mainly in the service sector).
Worldwide implementation status
In recent decades, governments have increasingly recognized the importance for consumers’ energy consumption behaviour and required the delivery of more effective feedback to consumers.
For example, in the European Union (EU), the European Commission and EU member states are working together for the roll-out of smart meters and aim to equip at least 80% of users with smart meters by 2020 (EurActiv 2012, September 18).
At the country level, for instance, in Denmark, there is a legal obligation to provide an “informative electricity bill” indicating environmental impact as well as historic and normative comparisons (Fischer 2007). In Italy, smart meters have been deployed since 2001 by the energy supplier Enel. Based on the evaluation of that deployment, the Italian government started the mandatory roll-out as early as 2008 and has provided financial incentives to network operators, due to the large cost they bear.
In addition, energy companies have also launched contests to encourage customers in energy saving, and recently also through the use of smart meters. For example, the ‘Biggest Energy Saver Campaign’, which has been organized annually by the Texas-based utilities and technology companies since 2011, is designed to reward consumers who make the most of their smart meter data to reduce their energy consumption ( ).
Feedback and behavioural measures have been implemented at trans-national, national, regional, and local level all over the world.
The following pre-conditions are necessary to implement Feedback Measures targeting user behaviour:
Agencies or other actors responsible for implementation
For feedback and behavioural measures in general, energy companies are needed for the metering and the feedback and potentially the advice on energy-efficient behaviour. The latter may also be provided by energy agencies or consumer information centres.
In terms of smart meters, since its roll-out involves various actors, such as users, network operators, energy supply companies, manufacturers of smart meter devices and corresponding government agencies, the establishment of a cross-sectoral committee that co-ordinates activities of all these actors may facilitate the roll-out process.
The agency and authorized organisations that are responsible for testing and evaluating smart meters should be in place to ensure their quality.
As part of finding solutions towards cost-sharing among different beneficiaries for the roll-out of smart meters or informative billing, the government needs to provide appropriate regulatory or financial incentives to responsible actors (e.g. network operators, utility companies) to cover their costs
As with all measures, but particularly to roll out new feedback technologies such as smart meters, a cost-benefit analysis should first be conducted in order to assess the cost-effectiveness of the large-scale deployment of this technology. In addition, given the social, economic, and health concerns from general public, communication activities should be carefully planned before the roll-out. Furthermore, pilot projects are essential for the roll-out, due to the existence of various socio-economic and/or technical uncertainties.
Feedback and behaviour measures do not usually have a quantified target in terms of energy saving, but they may specify the numbers of participants and units, for example, 80% of consumers being equipped with smart meters and receiving advice.
Policy makers can benefit from international co-operations that share the roll-out experiences of feedback and behaviour measures. In addition, international co-operation on the development of smart metering system technologies can be helpful for overcoming the technical barriers and reducing costs.
Smart meters and informative billing are themselves tools that track energy consumption. For other feedback and behavioural measures, monitoring should include the number of consumers having received feedback and advice, and what the frequency and subjects were. Costs should also be monitored.
Evaluation can be conducted through controlled experiment, before-after comparison of energy consumption and users’ behaviour, etc., and a control group. In addition, the features of feedback measures, such as delivering frequency, content, the involvement of comparison (e.g. historical comparison, normative comparison, etc.), need to be included in the evaluation for further improvements of the design of feedback measures (Fischer 2007).
Design for sustainability aspects
Public concerns about the health risk accompanied with smart meters ( ) and social issues such as privacy protection (van Elburg 2011) need to be well studied and communicated before its roll-out. In addition, feedback measures need to design tailored services to help low-income or low-education customers (Consumer Focus 2010).
Both the increasing demand for smart meters and potentially the demand for energy efficiency products and services create job opportunities in these fields.
Regarding more informative and frequent billing:
The following measures can be undertaken to overcome the barriers
For more informative and frequent billing:
For both feedback measures above:
As part of finding solutions to the cost-sharing among different beneficiaries for the roll-out of smart meters or informative billing, the government needs to provide appropriate regulatory or financial incentives to responsible actors (e.g. network operators, utility companies) to cover their costs.
Recent reviews on feedback programmes in the USA and Canada show electricity savings in the range of 5% to 15%. Studies on programmes in Japan and Denmark indicate lower savings, i.e. 1.5% and 3%, respectively. The wide range of savings may result from different programme approaches and evaluation methods, or to what extent the analyses consider the moderating factors and covariates (Schleich 2011). In addition, different feedback measures in use also result in different savings. Darby (2006) claims that direct feedback (i.e. immediate feedbacks from the meter or display monitors) can lead to more energy saving than indirect feedback (i.e. feedback that has been processed before reaching users, e.g. billing). However, sometimes, a good informative billing programme can result in higher savings than direct feedbacks, given certain socio-economic factors and consumption patterns (Stromback et al. 2011). Furthermore, the potential additional savings from investment induced by feedback measures are still limited. Ehrhardt-Martinez’s (2011) study shows that users mostly decide to adjust their behaviour in response to the feedback rather than investing in energy-efficient technologies.
For smart meters, major costs are its purchasing, installation and operating costs as well as the investment in advanced data collection and data communication infrastructure. KEMA’s recent study gives an overview of the costs of the smart metering system (see table). In terms of the cost for society as a whole, the roll-out of smart metering system will potentially result in an increase of energy price to cover the costs of deploying the technology (Balmert et al. 2012).
In general, the cost depends on a number of country specific factors, for example, the features of the existing local electricity and communication system, customer density, etc. (Balmert et al. 2012; Giordano et al. 2012).
For example, in the UK, the most recent impact assessment conducted by DECC shows, until 2030, the total cost of rolling out smart meters in the domestic sector and small/medium non-domestic sector would be 10,912 million and 592 million GBP, respectively (DECC 2012 a, b).
|Procurement costs smart meter (€)||35||110|
|Installation costs smart meter (electricity) (€)||13||28|
|Additional installation costs (selective roll-out) (€)||20||40|
|Annual operating costs smart meter (electricity) (€)||0.4||2.9|
|Procurement costs MUC-C (€)||60||150|
|Installation costs MUC-C (€)||8||20|
|Annual operating/maintenance costs MUC-C (€)||1.7||5.8|
|Procurement costs smart meter (gas) (€)||70||140|
|Installation costs smart meter (gas) (€)||25||45|
|Annual operating costs smart meter (gas) (€)||1.4||3.6|
|Procurement costs inhouse display (€)||5||50|
|Installation costs inhouse display (€)||10||25|
|Installation costs PLC per smart meter (€)||4.5||9|
|Annual operating costs PLC per smart meter (€)||0.7||2|
|Additional costs GPRS/GSM per smart meter (€)||35||50|
|Annual operating costs GPRS/GSM-modem (€)||1||10|
|Installation costs DSL & additional costs per smart meter (€)||60||100|
|Annual operating costs incl. queries DSL-Modem (€)||0.4||4|
Source: Balmert et al. 2012
* MUC-C: Multi Utility Communication Controller (MUC-C)
Try the following external libraries:
|Energy Efficiency Policy Database of the IEA|
|Energy Efficiency Policies and Measures Database of the World Energy Council|
|CLASP’s Global S&L Database|