Phase: Partnership & buy-inData security & regulationTechnical set-upTake-up & useOutcomes

Non-residential Buildings

The public sector is to “lead by example” being a key element of today’s national and EU strategies for saving energy, and is mentioned explicitly in the ‘Energy Efficiency Directive’ (EED) adopted by the EU in 2012[1]. Buildings owned and/or managed by the public sector make up around 12% of overall EU building stock and spending of the public sector is 17% of EU GDP; around 40% of the construction turnover is public.[2]


Energy sources in non-residential buildings (EU)[3]

Irrespective of these figures a large share of municipalities have no sufficient policy for reducing operational cost of buildings. No doubt, the portfolio of buildings and resulting requirements are complex. At first sight, offices, schools and sports facilities do not have much in common. Yet they all have obvious usage patterns including off-times. Over the weekend or holidays, however, nobody is in the building able to detect wastage. Without smart-metering additional staff would have to be paid for to ensure optimised operation of buildings.

Another problem is responsibility. Staff does only occupy a small amount of space wishing for the best possible comfort within these boundaries. With or without rules, a compromise is found to make all staff affected as happy as possible. Does your office have a target temperature? With a target temperature there is a certain degree of accountability. Individuals cannot simply complain it to be too cold but many will - so possible - adjust temperature with thermostats, windows and other means.

Janitors and/or facility managers have no means to read the varying temperatures in a building and approaching individuals is a rather unrewarding task. Individuals can be motivated to recognise responsibility for their own space but they cannot foresee possible inefficiencies across the building unless it is explained in simple and graphical form ideally linking cause and effect. Achieving this requires a measurable goal all staff can work towards to at building level and sophisticated services might even allow management for :term:`zone`s.

If you consider implementing the service in a museum do not only look at the references provided to museums. The consumption patterns of a school and a museum obviously differ. However, being in one country they both share regulation, climate and user attitudes. Consider any kind of car in comparison: You can reduce fuel consumption by not breaking at the very last moment possible but lifting your foot sooner. Whether to turn off your engine at a red light, however, depends more on the age of the car than on driving a 4x4 or a sports car. After all, a museum can also be a “modernised glass box” or an Georgian Palace.

Partnership & buy-in

Partnership & buy-in covers the period in which the majority of stakeholders is yet unfamiliar with the service. Key actors need to be identified and support needs to be gathered.

Set goals

The first step at the outset of an implementation project should always be agreement on the overall goal of the intervention. While improved energy efficiency is obviously the overarching goal, there are several ways to achieve this and the kind of intervention to be chosen also depends on the regulatory environment and the actors to be involved.

The project should start with a review of the potential benefits and downsides of implementing smart metering based services for a given stock of buildings. Based on best practice and available research evidence, it should be possible to make a general estimate about the costs and potential benefits to be derived from implementing.

Any decision about implementation of smart metering related innovations in the housing sector has to take full account of the national and regional/local regulatory environment. A number of Member State governments have developed policy initiatives for the support of smart technologies for energy efficiency in the residential sector. In many cases, support programmes and incentive schemes have been set up. Investors need to fully understand the national implementation context before embarking on a smart metering project.

The national and local environment will also influence the main options which are available for action, as well as the main drivers and constraints to be expected.

The project at this stage will also want to take stock of what is in place already in terms of infrastructure for metering and energy management. All of the above will enable the project initiators to define a number of goals of their endeavour. At this stage of the project, goals need to be general rather than specific, in order not to predetermine key features of the project before all key stakeholders have come on board.

Incentivise Stakeholders

Involving all parties that have a stake in the “energy efficiency value chain“ in the implementation project is a key conditions for success. What is more, all key stakeholders involved need to believe that the project is worth their effort, i.e. their financial resources, but most importantly their willingness to cooperate and their commitment to the project’s ultimate success.

Experience has shown that various stakeholders may feel the need to resist or delay the introduction of energy-efficiency strategies based on smart metering technology. It is for this reason that incentivisation should be a core ingredient of any project for implementing ICT-services.

Incentives Staff

A lot of staff has been laid off over the past years due to austerity measures. This number might have been smaller if the staff would have been ble to understand and influence energy consumption of public buildings better.

Even simple EDSS installations enable staff and professionals to reduce the amount of wasted energy and hereby contribute to savings needed to reduce strain on the budget. This can be achieved without reducing comfort and service for their customers.

Incentives Municipality / Council

Councils are organisations thinking in a longer term. Energy consumption, due to increasing costs, will become a larger and larger share of the budget. This money spent does not provide a service for the citizens.

Clear hierarchies are an advantage for the deployment of ICT-enabled efficiency services. As the budget from which the staff members are paid is also the budget from which the energy bills are deducted, the challenges related to what is called split incentives are smaller.

Even savings of a few per cent are a considerable amount in times of austerity. Combined with a strategy of energy production and integration of measurement services, cost can be better planned and reliance on external parties reduced.

Incentivisation: Summary

A good way to explore the different motivations among key participants in the implementation project is to ask each key stakeholder to fill out the Checklist checklist_reviewbenefits and then to discuss the findings in a group discussion chaired by an independent moderator.

List, for each stakeholder organisation, the incentives and disincentives that can be expected to influence their commitment to the project’s goals, together with the actions you will need to take to create or strengthen incentives and get rid of disincentives.

If it is clear that a key stakeholder foreseen to participate in the project cannot be sufficiently motivated, you may need to seek alternative options. Otherwise, the project can be severely affected.

Inform union etc. about service

  • Impact
    • These institutions are trusted by Staff and will fight against service if benefits are not understood
    • Institutions have effective communication channels which will simplify roll-out
  • Recommendation
    • Invite e.g. union to a meeting and communicate motivation and benefits
    • Establish a contact point and keep it in the loop

Lengthily procedures for involving staff / professionals into the project

  • Recommendation
    • The best way of reaching out to the staff members is through their superiors
    • It is helpful to have good relations with heads of departments and to keep them informed about all project activities

The dispersion of financial benefits through project as facilitator for the service adoption.

  • Impact
    • Experience showed that by sharing with users the reduction of energy costs, their interest towards the service grew stronger.
  • Recommendation
    • Share positive information, especially financial benefits, through mail, telephone, brochures, etc.
    • Energy managers can increase motivation with face to face interviews.

Use workshops to identify potential champions

  • Impact
    • Workshops are a good way of learning of the users’ attitudes and opinions
    • Champions facilitate the outreach, advertise solution
  • Recommendation
    • Organise workshops with open title
    • Observe attitudes and approach interested and extroverted people first

Approaching visitors might require consulting public representative

  • Impact
    • Those responsible want to know what is happening in “their” (public) places
    • It might even be legally forbidden in certain buildings
  • Recommendation
    • Check with department in charge, ideally an internal partner
    • Take someone from staff to approach |sv|s

Data security & regulation

Data security & regulation covers the validation of core rules such as data protection rules and legal requirements.


This is only a summary, see Legal Documentation for full detail.



empirica is continuously working on this issue and has extensive documentation of the regulatory development. If you are interested, contact

Various policy initiatives and legislation have been introduced in the last years to address the important role of metering and billing in the energy sector. As part of the Third Energy Package, Member States have performed a quantitative analysis regarding the implementation of the so-called smart meters for electricity and gas. Based on that, most Member States have implemented or are about to implement the installation of smart meters.

The requirements of the Third Energy Package are closely linked to the Energy Service Directive (ESD), which apart from smart meters includes legislation on conventional metering and billing as well. The Directive states that individual meters are to be provided to customers for electricity and gas, but also for district heating, cooling and domestic hot water. With the newest directive - the Energy Efficiency Directive - from 2012, the focus remains on individual metering and providing appropriate billing and billing information, with a special focus on multi-apartment and multi-purpose buildings.

Lessons learnt

Concerns about data privacy

  • Impact
    • Surveys where people are asked to fill in personal information (e.g. their e-mail address) raise concerns
  • Recommendation
    • Ask for personal information only if it absolutely necessary
    • If personal information is requested, give a good explanation why it is needed and what it is used for.
    • If no personal information is needed, announce that the survey is anonymous

Keep data processes transparent

  • Impact
    • Users are alarmed whenever their personal data is requested
    • Why keep process and use a secret when you are not going to sell data?
  • Recommendation
    • List if any personnel data is being recorded
    • Explain in writing what data is used and explictely state it is not going to be used beyond this purpose
    • Create link to / Establish a data protection contact point

Technical set-up

Technical set-up is about the technical planning and implementation of the service.

Defining Scope and Focus

The leading actor should lay out the limits of the service to be deployed to make sure that the following steps such as requirement collection and use case development do not loose focus.

Selection of utilities to be covered by the service

Based on your project’s overarching goals, you will need to decide which resources and devices should be covered by the service.

If the objective is to achieve the highest possible energy savings with the smart services to be introduced, it needs to be kept in mind that three quarters of the energy used in the European residential buildings sector is for heating and cooling. Given these patterns of energy consumption, it strikes as unfortunate that the discussion about potential uses of smart meter technologies tends to revolve around electricity.

It is true, however, that energy use for electrical appliances has been increasing in the last decades, partly due to the larger number of ICT appliances being used. Moreover, the share of electricity in average utility bills in the residential sector is much higher than its share of total energy consumption. Hence, in monetary terms it might be easier to incentivise stakeholders.

Including Renewables

If renewables are produced locally, a mutual benefit can result for the operator of the units and the consumer. Depending on national law, local consumption which does not enter the grid is freed from tax etc. Hence, getting the user involved to consume energy at peak production times is

Moreover, the ICT monitoring can help to identify whether the unit is running on optimal capacity. Sometimes, even newly installed solar devices are not perfectly adjusted or water pressures for water thermals not optimally set by the contractor. The data monitored can be matched against the output promised and then adjustments can be made to increase the output.

Considering peak demand local storage

Existing buildings are storing energy. The materials used have a so called ‘latent storage’ capacity. Depending on the material used it can store large amount of heat (or cold) realising it faster or slower. Since heat (cold) energy can be converted into electricity (and vice versa), storage capacities of buildings can be used to store-up production capacities (e.g. CHCP) and supply of renewables (photovoltaic) for a given amount of time.

ICT can intelligently balance local systems helping to mitigate similar problems and to ensure that local network connections are optimally loaded and transitory (stochastic) renewable output fully used. It is now recognised that local balancing by matching local supply and demand can not only reduce the number of hours of criticality locally, but as well help to balance load at a wider scale . The future smart grid will rely on Virtual Power Plants (VPP) and Demand Response within and from buildings.

Selection of channel for representation of feedback

There has been a lot of debate in the field of smart meter enabled energy efficiency and demand response about which forms of feedback work best. Research conducted by the Empower Demand 1+2 projects , as well as experience from piloting, has shown that multiple feedback channels tend to work best. It is certainly true that different consumers will prefer different channels and that no one-size-fits-all approach is likely to meet all needs and preferences.

The basic options, and their main advantages and limitations, for presentation channels are:

  • In home displays were used in most early pilots, and can be an effective form of feedback if combined with appropriate activities for education and awareness raising. They tend to be more expensive and much less flexible compared to use of existing communication devices such as mobile phones and computers.
  • Applications for mobile devices such as texting/SMS (for traditional mobile phones) or more advanced presentation in html (for Smartphones or tablets), are usually less expensive as users use their own end devices for reception. They can also be integrated more seamlessly with users’ established behaviours.
  • Web portals to be accessed through computers or smart mobile devices connected to the Internet offer the widest range of possibilities, e.g. in terms of personalisation of the presentation type and style, but need to be very well designed to avoid putting off users. Drawbacks include the need not only for Internet access but also for the skills and motivation required to use the Internet effortlessly and frequently.
  • Since not all residents of social housing buildings will have Internet access, the television can be a suitable alternative for data presentation.
  • In times when people easily feel that they are being bombarded with information online, paper-based letters can still be a very useful alternative, especially if not (only) data but practical recommendations are to be communicated.
  • Other paper-based communication, including leaflets with practical hints and recommendations, can also still play an important role – if done well and well aligned with other presentation channels.
  • Communication in-person can be applied, of course, only in combination with some of the channels above. Use of energy coaches can be a highly effective means of providing information with the objective of changing tenants’ energy consumption behaviour. Deployment of energy coaches is also recommended as a complement to feedback content which is complex and therefore not easy to understand and to translate into suitable behaviour. The more comprehensive and ambitious your project is, the more emphasis you should place on in-person communication.

Any feedback given to tenants needs to be consistent with the bills they later receive from the utilities, as the Empower Demand 2 report points out based on its comprehensive research into best practice:

*“Ultimately, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Regardless of all the feedback that a customer receives, if the bill that comes to them at the end of a billing period is higher than previously or higher than they expected, or even not noticeably lower than previously, then a customer will be discouraged or in the worst cases [...] even highly critical of the feedback programme.

A way to overcome this is to make billing as clear and informative as possible, […] which ultimately allows the customer to differentiate between increases in bills that are attributable to price increases as opposed to increases in consumption.”*

Requirement Capture

A requirement is any technical, organisational or user specific request. Requirements are collected using workshops and questionnaires and should be collected from all user groups as they might have different needs. Requirements are prioritised to identify critical and to organise work. Later in the process, the system can be compared against the list of highly prioritised requirements and if all are covered the tester can be confident that (at least from this view point) the system is fully functional.

The Guide offers a comprehensive list of almost 500 requirements collected from 28 pilot sites traceable by an ID. The necessary set is listed with each Use Case and Process Model so replicating stakeholders know what to look out for.

Generic User Characteristics

Lessons learnt

Define roles & responsibilities of (sub)contractor / provider to avoid conflict and cost

  • Impact
    • Hierarchies established avoid additional / unstructured communication
    • Not allocated tasks induce costs, create conflicts between contractors and can bring work to an halt (potentially with knock-on effects)
    • The effect is stronger where language barriers exist.
  • Recommendation
    • Outline responsibilities of key stakeholders and their exact roles in the project early on.
    • Definitions should follow the role/function of the actor within the project, not the structure of the consortium.
    • Each partner can play several roles, but potential role conflicts need to be identified and subsequently addressed at planning stage.

Develop one simple visualisation which works everywhere

  • Impact
    • People feel immediately confident that they understand the output of the service: motivation
    • Changes to the graphic are immediately recognised which creates a feedback loop
    • Users immediately understand information in new context (e.g. different building, resource)
  • Recommendation
    • Create one graphic which reduces the number of variables needed to understand
    • Make this visualisation the default view at start page
    • In back-end and residential context consider bar-chart in monetary terms
    • Same graph and default time period should be used for varying resources

Visualise high consumers

  • Impact
    • If alarms are too frequent, Professional might set threshold higher - quick view sometimes easier and a backup
    • Awareness of normal users can focused by showing the impact of one single consumer
  • Recommendation
    • Provide small graphic of high consumers on one dashboard for Professional in backend
    • Push-alarms might be possible based on such graphics
    • Consider adding a meter for large consumers

Take user testing seriously

  • Impact
    • Testers are new users and they show you where they fail
    • Recording their requirements makes sure feateres which are wanted are to be developed
  • Recommendation
    • During different stages of the project find test users that have not seen the displays before and ask them to do a sense check
    • Keep in touch with old testers for them to check your new version
    • Review their feedback and consider changes
    • Use standardised routines including referencing requiremetns

Take-up & use

Take-up & use covers the period of deploying the service, recruiting users and operation.


Staff Training

Well informed employees who interact with users play a key role for the success of the implementation. When in contact with consumers, staff should be able to answer standard as well as site-specific questions. There should also be a thorough understanding about the benefits of smart metering to all parties concerned, as well as a common vision revolving around responsibility for the environment and commitment to the interests of tenants – especially if these are households at risk of fuel poverty.

Type and scope of staff training can take several forms and depends on the services to be implemented. Of course, technical staff needs to be trained in any new system to be implemented. Importantly, housing company employees who are in direct, day-to-day contact with tenants need to be trained as tenants are most likely to approach them first when they experience problems or have open questions. Back-office staff will need to understand the system so that they can administer changes of customer data, for instance when tenants move out or in. The staff installing the meters should be properly trained as well so that they can answer consumers’ questions but – importantly! – also communicate the advantages of the technology rather than contribute to feelings of concern and uncertainty.

Lessons learnt

Ensure maintenance |ss| and |sp| are aware of the project

  • Impact
    • If not aware, they might consider service as a tool to replace them
    • They can be core users with workable knowledge of buildings
  • Recommendation
    • Explain how savings make sure that budget cuts will not be necessary
    • Offer training and reduce fear of not being able to handle ICT
    • Make, occasionaly, service an agenda item at meetings in department

Training and information sessions need to be tailored to the audience

  • Impact
    • Telling regular users too much, will make the unsure about what to do and to reduce risk, not use the service
    • Telling professionals what they already know demotivates them and the session is perceived as waste of time
  • Recommendation
    • Find out what the current level of knowledge is and focus on new learning
    • Keep it short (better 2 x 1hr sessions than 1 x 4 hrs) to digest the contents
    • Be clear about what it is that we want to achieve and why we need their help

Workshop size and organisation

  • Impact
    • Group training enables users to exchange also after session
    • Contact
  • Recommendation
    • For Professional: small groups of 6-7 (ideally a working team)
    • For regular users: mid-sized groups of 12-17 (ideally neigbhours)
    • Provide small gifts (e.g. mugs) with link as reminder about service

Establish a communication strategey

  • Impact
    • Terms should be recognised in context of service
    • To frequent messages will appear random and confused
  • Recommendation
    • Define terms and communicate to Professional, champions, help desk etc. to use when talking about service
    • Define a few messages and present them in certain context, e.g. spot on the internal website
    • Select a few channels to communicate to focus your effort and reduce cost

Have a trusted organisation as a partner in public meetings

  • Impact
    • Institutions such as universities enjoy the confidence of the employees in the public sector and can achieve the advantage in your favour
  • Recommendation
    • Invite and inform universities, associations, unions etc.
    • Consider a regional university over “consultants” from outside

Identify champions, ideally in each building

  • Impact
    • Champions will take responsibility and contact the professional when they cannot achieve result themselves
    • EDSS identifies waste and opportunities, but action is required by individuals
  • Recommendation
    • Identify energy champions in workshop and recruitment events
    • Establish link to dedicated energy and other building professionals to carry out specialised works


Make sure success in saving energy is perceived as teamwork

  • Impact
    • A service without users’s action has no effect, make sure motivation stays up
    • Vice-versa: Improvements may raise the question why these have not been reached earlier and can make the responsible for energy efficiency appear in a bad light
    • Finally, if one building is successful and everybody knows it, it is also a way to motivate those in a new building
  • Recommendation
    • Communicate the success and clearly state that the “users” have achieved it
    • Communicate that these savings have been achieved with the service and were not possible without
    • Make this statements also in a public in a press release etc

Keep a contact point open

  • Impact
    • There will always be new users and they should have an easy access point
  • Recommendation
    • Re-use materials
    • Use a video channel to explain functionality which can be moderated by a champion

Convince users to replicate good action at home

  • Impact
    • Some lessons are universal and the trick can be applied eslewhere
    • One user communicating the advice to another person is a duplication of awareness
  • Recommendation
    • Keep a public website or kiosk for general advice
    • Use quizes to test knowledge
    • Suggest energy saving games with children
    • Do not overload - one hint at a time so action can be structured by anyone

—— Footnotes

[1]Sources for figures: Ecorys, Ecofys and BioIntelligence (2010): Study to Support the Impact Assessment for the EU Energy Saving Action Plan. The estimate is based on the assumption of 5 m² of public buildings per citizen, translating into a total floor area of public buildings (excluding social housing) in the EU of 2.5 billion m². The total floor area is 21 billion m²; COM(2011) 15: Green Paper on the modernization of EU public procurement policy: Towards a more efficient European procurement market; ICT for a Low Carbon Economy Smart Buildings, July 2009, Findings by the High-Level Advisory Group, the REEB Consortium ‘On the Building and Construction sector’.
[2]Energy Efficiency Directive (2012/27/EU), amending Directives 2009/125/EC and 2010/30/EU and repealing Directives 2004/8/EC and 2006/32/EC
[3]©empirica 2014, Sources: Odyssee-Project, eurostat