The Power of Neighbourhood in Demand Response

Throughout the last 10-15 years, there has been many trials across Europe and in US attempting to make households save energy or time shift their energy consumption through providing direct feedback to individual homes about their energy consumption and cost. The feedback can be given in many ways such as via websites or smart phone apps and can include various levels of information (e.g. the hourly distribution of the household’s energy consumption and/or the price of the energy). However, previous feedback trials have often been a limited success in permanently engaging householders in changing their energy consumption. One of the reasons for this is that the feedback designs are typically having a rather individualistic approach and often emphasise only the economic or environmental benefits of changing energy consumption practices. To be relevant for more people it would be ideal to include more benefits.

More recent trials and studies indicate that adding a neighbourhood aspect to the demand response design increases the level of engagement and help people to stay involved over longer time periods. The important thing here is the acknowledgement of people being social beings, and that we as citizens and residents can have also other reasons for changing our energy consumption than just the economic and environmental. Projects, like the London-based Smart Communities, show that householders are more willing to take part in energy saving initiatives if they feel it is part of a community move in the local neighbourhood. In such projects, people are not only changing their practices in order to save energy and money, but also because they believe it helps their neighbourhood.

In the RESPOND project, we plan to utilise the neighbourhood approach by focusing on local energy management and how to optimize the flows of local energy production and consumption. For instance, this will be done by providing feedback to householders about the local neighbourhood electricity production from solar cells (PVs) in order to motivate them to time shift their power consumption from morning or evening peak hours to midday hours when the sun is shining and the PV power production peaks. Optimising the use of their “own” local energy production makes it more appealing for the households to take part in the demand response programme.

Another way of employing the neighbourhood approach is through normative social influence. Studies show that our ideas of what other people do have a considerable influence on our personal motivation to adopt new habits. Thus, if we believe (or can see) that our neighbours are sorting their waste, the probability that we will adopt the same practice ourselves is higher. People are “consensus seeking” and like to do the same as others. This can be utilised in neighbourhood approaches through giving the households information about their neighbours’ energy consumption – for instance by comparing the energy consumption of the individual household to that of its neighbours. This can be done strategically by comparing the individual household to the best performing households – e.g. the average energy saving rates of the 20% of the households that are saving the most. This can motivate households that are performing worse than the “top performers” to improve their own energy savings or move in time their energy use.

Women in neighbourhoods interact more in demand response programs to save energy

A positive “side-effect” of neighbourhood approaches is that they seem to attract a higher share of women to become active participants. This is important, as most smart energy designs are appealing primarily to men and therefore often have a gendered bias.

All in all, neighbourhood approaches can help make demand response programmes more effective and attractive to households by addressing aspects of human life that are not only centred on economic motives (saving money) or abstract ideas about “doing the good” for the environment. Neighbourhood approaches tap into other domains that are meaningful to people such as helping their local neighbourhood or measuring one’s own actions to the actions of other people.

Meet the Aran Island Pilot Site

The Aran Islands Partner in the RESPOND project is Comharchumann Fuinnimh Oileáin Árann Teoranta, or Aran Islands Energy Cooperative . This is a community owned energy cooperative which was established in 2012. It aims to help the three Aran Islands become Carbon neutral by 2022. The Cooperative also facilitates the retrofitting of the dwellings on the islands as many of the houses there are older with little if any insulation, this has been very successful so far.

The location of the Irish pilot site is on Inishmore, the largest of the three Aran Islands in the mouth of Galway Bay. With a population of approx 800 people the island itself is very exposed to the elements, particularly during the winter months as it has very little shelter. The islands, which are very popular with tourists – especially in the summer season, are very isolated and have little in the line of services that one might see in some of the other pilot areas. The islands have a rich history and culture which is preserved there and are an extremely popular tourist attraction to people from all over the world. There are many ancient stone fortresses on the island as well as many ruins of churches and monastic settlements. 

All five houses currently signed up to the project have their own individual connection to the electricity supply and a there is a meter within each dwelling where the electricity usage can be easily tracked. There is no gas connection available on the island, and so the households that have gas appliances (cookers only in this case) use bottled gas which is imported onto the island and sold by various local vendors. 

Since the introduction of the BEC (Better Energy Communities) scheme by the SEAI (Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland) in 2012, which is still running, fossil fuel imports into the island have steadily declined. This is great news for our environment and a testament to the success of the scheme. Almost 50% of all houses across the three islands have been retrofitted to some degree, with many having solar water heaters or PV panels installed. There has been a huge amount of insulation work carried out also, as a lot of dwellings on the islands are older buildings, built of stone and poorly insulated. There are currently 9 electric vehicles on Inishmore, and we hope to see this steadily increase over time. There have been several incentive schemes rolled out over the past few years to increase interest in and purchases of EVs. 

Air conditioning is nonexistent within the pilot dwellings, with the exception of extractor hoods used during cooking, which are very common, as the summers on the island are very mild. Temperature control within the dwellings focus’ solely on heating rather than cooling, mostly between the months of September through to May, inclusive.

Below are some images of the pilot site. Left; one of the dwellings discussed in this report. Middle; Inishmore on the map. Right; View of Inishmore from the south.

All of the houses store energy is some shape or form, for the most part it is stored in the form of hot water in cylinders within the house for use when needed. Only one of the dwellings has a battery storage system, which is being used to store excess energy produced from the PV panels.  Three of the dwellings have storage heaters installed in the property also.

There is no DR equipment installed in any of the dwellings, as part of this project a program suitable to the dwellings could be applied.

As part of the RESPOND project each of these 5 houses, and any which will participate in the future, will be fitted with the following;

  • A prosumer meter for measuring power to/from the PV panels, house and grid.
  • 2 smart cables for appliances up to 16A.
  • 3 Smart Plugs which can control/measure loads on appliances up to 16A
  • 3 Temperature and Humidity sensors which will report temperature and humidity every 5 minutes.
  • A GSM modem with a gateway which will collect sensor data for analysis.

This equipment will be installed into the dwellings in Summer 2018 and will begin to monitor power consumption in the dwellings to create a baseline for the project.

RESPOND Events: Our Experience at IoT Week Bilbao 2018

IoT Week Bilbao
Project Responde

IoT Week 2018 was held in Bilbao, Spain from 4th until 7th June.

The event addressed the latest trends in the Internet of Things (IoT) domain, and gathered a community of stakeholders that are engaged in developing new IoT technologies and solutions.

The RESPOND Project had its own booth, where participants got to discover the project and its purpose. Indeed, they got the opportunity to know more about RESPOND’s objective: bringing Demand Response capabilities to neighbourhoods across Europe.

Our colleagues from IK4-TEKNIKER, one of RESPOND’s partners, also showcased the project in the event with a session called “Semantic Interoperability for Demand Response programs”.

Next year, the IoTWeek will be held in Aarhus (Denmark). City where there is a RESPOND pilot site.


Stay tuned and check our latest News!

RESPOND in the News: Spanish Media Share Insights thanks to Project Coordination by Fenie Energia

Last week our project coordinator, Fenie Energia, worked with Spanish media in order to expand the news about RESPOND.

After our first offsite meeting – where all project partners meet in Aran Islands during 2 days to coordinate technical details of the project and visit one of our pilot sites – Fenie Energia shared some interesting insights about our progress with Spanish media.

Therefore, a series of media links are available for you now if you want to learn more about us, specially if you can read Spanish 😉

EuropaPress Shares news about Project Respond





Stay tuned and check our latest NEWS!