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

Residential Buildings

As car drivers, we are very sensitive to costs; we react to the smallest of changes in prices at the pump. Likewise, we make much fuss about changes to public transport ticket prices. Once at home, we seem to take little notice of the cost of energy: Hardly anybody knows how much they pay for heating their homes and how large their electricity bill is.

What is more, there is very little awareness about how changes in day-to-day behaviour affect actual costs. Despite of EU regulation[1], individual metering is not yet the standard for multi-apartment buildings and without transparency most residential users consider the size of their monthly bill for electricity and heating to be outside of their control.

Use of energy tends to be physically “invisible” to consumers. Only the status and comfort of using energy will be visible to residents. Some might consider a reduction of energy consumption as a threat to comfort or status. Such uncertainty about the impact of own behaviour can only be approached with access to information in combination with raising awareness.


Energy sources in residential buildings (EU)[2]

In 2012, around 80% of all energy consumed in households was used for heating (68%) and water heating (12%). The exact distribution of cost, however, depends on the quality of the build as much as the energy source and own behaviour. Various European projects successfully deployed web-portals informing residents in social housing upon water, heating and electricity consumption. These citizens are faced with rising prices and an increased risk of what is now being called “fuel poverty”.[3] An increasing share of the population is affected, for instance, in Germany annual rates of disconnection of households from the electricity grid recently reached nearly 600,000.[4]

Not only families are affected. For instance, public bodies pay for energy consumption in some countries as part of social security. Since implementation cost are low and can be deployed quickly, ICT solutions are of high importance for European councils’ in dire need to reduce their spending.


The BECA project designed, developed and piloted new solutions to enable sustained reductions in energy consumption across European social housing. This was accomplished by providing usable ICT-based services for Energy Management (ems) and Energy Decision Support Service (edss) directly to tenants as well as to social housing staff.

The project achieved 15% savings for heating, 11% for cold water and 17% for hot water. Savings amount to 570MWh which equals 177 tons of CO2 per year. Financial pay-off is achieved by most stakeholders during the first 3 years. The socio-economic net benefit for the BECA project, extrapolated for ten years, amounts to €1.7Million in pilot buildings alone.

BECA was deployed in seven pilots in seven countries across Europe, Eastern Europe in particular. More than 5,000 social housing tenants were given access to ICT services. 19 organisations participated including relevant government authorities and social housing providers, and coordinated by empirica. The project was supported financially by the European Commission under the ICT Policy Support Programme.

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 Tenant

VaasaETT, having organised a study on a large number of pilot implementation, concluded that “the main factor preventing the progress of Demand Response and indeed energy efficiency programmes is apparently the lack of appropriate and effective education, communication and feedback of information to consumers, in the face of negative consumer pre-dispositions towards energy utilities companies“ .

The role of tenants in the implementation process is basically threefold. They:

  • need to accept the installation of smart meters within their dwelling, i.e. collection and processing of much more detailed data about patterns of energy consumption by the members of a household;
  • are expected to respond to the information presented to them in the chosen format (i.e. web platform, tablet platform, in-house-display, informative billing) in ways which reduce their overall energy use and/or reduce peak time energy use;
  • in case of initiatives for load shedding, i.e. shift of energy-intensive activities from peak to off-peak hours, tenants also need to accept the loss of comfort (if there is any) involved as well as any restrictions to the freedom to choose e.g. times at which the dwelling is being heated.

This implies that consumers need to support the implementation at least passively if it is to achieve the desired energy efficiency improvements without endangering the quality of the relationship between tenants and housing provider.

In practice, however, customers around Europe have sometimes turned against smart meters already before roll-out or after gaining some first experience with them. This shows that no implementation project can take it for granted that tenants will easily realise the benefits of smart meter based energy efficiency and demand response services. Moreover, there may be active opposition if risks and downsides from consumers’ viewpoint are not properly addressed by the project.

While international experience shows that consumer acceptance of technological innovations is partly cultural, research suggests that the choices made by the utility and regulators are easily as important for consumer acceptance.

These are some recommendations for dealing with consumers which have proven effective in pilot implementations:

  • Installation of smart metering in homes should not feel mandatory. You should foresee some form of opt-out option for consumers, but make sure through appropriate promotional activities that opting out is perceived as foregoing a powerful means of saving money and contributing to the common good.
  • You should have mechanisms in place to notice any signs of decent, worry or concern among tenants as soon as they arise, and to respond swiftly. Well informed employees who interact with tenants play a key role here. They should be able to answer standard as well as site-specific questions.
  • The staff installing the meters should be adequately trained as well so that they can adequately answer consumers’ questions and communicate the advantages of the technology rather than contribute to feelings of concern and uncertainty.
  • A clear information package, designed for the purpose: Consumers need to have a basic understanding of how this new piece of technology works and why it is in their interest to have it installed in their home.
  • Technical issues during roll-out, which even a very well prepared implementation might not be able to avoid, should be kept invisible to end users. In the case that a technical issue causes detriment to tenants, providers should make sure that they demonstrate goodwill.
  • Management of consumer expectations is a key issue. The project owners should try their best not to make promises they cannot fulfil in a timely manner and without extra expense on the part of the consumer. While consumers must see some benefit from roll-out directly, these expectations should not include promises of future programs but only explain benefits which will be available in a timely manner and (if not free) for a price clearly communicated beforehand to tenants.

There should be no doubt that transition to using energy efficiently can be difficult as it requires widespread changes in habits, ranging from turning off appliances when not in use to buying more energy efficient appliances. The balance between technical solutions for energy efficiency and human actions for energy efficiency needs to be weighed carefully, which explains why combination of edss with ems services is likely to be the most effective way forward.

Insufficient efficiency awareness among consumers can be one reason for lack of interest in the information provided by smart meters. Getting perceptions right is of essential importance. People may not have an accurate understanding of the effort needed to achieve energy efficiency and the resulting advantages in terms of energy consumption. In other words, they may feel too much effort would be required for too little return. Clearly, initiatives for raising awareness of potential savings, in monetary terms, are necessary to incentivise end users, i.e. tenants, of the benefits they can derive from implementation. Housing providers should explore possibilities for using Energy Coaches for distributing personalised recommendations to their tenants.

In order to be able to design effective activities for awareness raising and promotion, you should have sufficient insight into your tenants’ propensity to engage in energy saving behaviours, see box below. For this purpose, tenant surveys can be a useful approach, as can group discussions with tenants chaired by experienced moderators. In any case you will need to be careful to avoid perceptions that you seek to force tenants to adopt the innovation against their will.

..include:: ../99_annex/checklists/checklist-tenant.txt

If tenants have generally adopted a negative attitude to any initiative originating from the housing company, it will be all the harder to convince them of the benefits of implementation. Housing providers, especially in the social housing sector where tenants do not have much freedom of choice where to live, need to be very clear about the fact that not all of their customers will be supportive of top-down initiatives for saving energy.

Consumer’s pre-dispositions towards their energy provider are similarly fraught with problems. Energy providers’ conduct towards end consumers is typically perceived as patronising: “Whether justified or not, a large proportion of utility consumers feel suspicious of utility companies when those companies promise to give the customer savings or benefits for free. Typically, though not always and not for all companies, consumers perceive that utility companies are more like tax collectors than charities. Their aim, in consumers’ minds, is to provide a simple, monopolistic public commodity service and earn a good profit in doing so. The utility company makes money through the maximization of sales and price of that commodity. So when utility companies then claim to consumers that they want to save energy and that they intend to help the consumer to save energy and money, it is quite understandable that consumers often think that they can smell a rat.

Under such circumstances, alternative channels for promotion of the project need to be identified and utilised. The initial message announcing the initiative to save energy and money should come from communication sources that consumers trust; a source that they feel is independent, ideally on their side and/or the side of the environment, but at least not on the side of the housing company or the utility. The municipality, consumer groups and local environmental organisations are possible candidates. Cooperation with community centres can be particularly effective for reaching ethnic minorities.

A key objective of such cooperation should be to “reassure tenants that guarantees and safeguards are in place to protect them from being duped, to protect them from higher costs, and to justify to consumers the logic and simplicity of their offering”.

Concerns about data security and privacy of data have been raised repeatedly in recent years in connection with the roll-out of smart metering. In the Netherlands, such concerns have already lead to a major backlash against a government plan, adopted in 2007, to equip all of the country’s buildings with smart meters by 2013. In 2009 the Dutch government had to back down after consumer groups and privacy watchdog groups had campaigned vigorously against the plan. Instead of a mandatory roll-out, smart meters installation was made voluntary. The main causes of concern were as follows:

  • Hourly and 15-minutes readings give away information about the consumer’s habits, such as when he or she leaves the house and when he or she returns. This information could be useful to burglars.
  • Smart meters can provide insights into a family’s living patterns and relationships “which can affect people’s freedom to do as they please in the confines of their homes.”
  • There is a risk that information about a person’s energy use will fall into the hands of third parties such as the police or insurance companies.

Experience from other sector suggests that tenants are more likely to refuse to sign the approval for data collection if they have the perception that their private lives will be scrutinised or that the data collected will be used to their disadvantage. Note that what counts here are perceptions and not whether existing concerns are justified or not.

In general, consumers tend to consider a trade-off between, one the one hand, privacy and security concerns and, on the other hand, convenience and added utility – as experience with use of social networks on the Internet and mobile phones has amply demonstrated. This implies that you will have better chances to win over tenants if they are fully aware of the benefits they can derive from the system, such as lower utility bills.

Incentives Social Housing Provider

One of the main challenges facing attempts to implement edss systems is related to what is called split incentives: The term describes the fact that decisions regarding investments in energy efficiency are often split between building owners (housing companies), who would be required to pay for smart metering systems, and building occupants (tenants), who would reap the rewards of lower running costs for energy. Total costs might be reduced by implementation of the system, but because costs and benefits are split across different stakeholders it might still be rejected.

Moreover, calculation of future savings resulting from investments in energy efficiency includes several uncertainties, such as future energy prices and real estate market fluctuations. Housing companies who invest in higher energy efficiency cannot be sure of making a profit or even just recovering initial investments when re-selling the building.

There appears to be a general consensus, however, that energy prices are bound to increase over the medium to long term, irrespective of the occasional ups and downs in market rates.

Lack of capacity can also deter housing providers from investing in smart metering, as the expertise needed to assess available technical and organisational options is not readily available in many housing companies. For this reason, obtaining external expertise needs to be made as easy as possible, while some EU countries have large networks of energy advice agencies in a place that fulfil this role, in others availability of external expertise is still insufficient. In the latter case, lack of capacity, possible delays due to delivery time or extra fees paid to an expert can reduce interest in smart metering systems.

Housing company staff should not be assumed to favour implementation of energy efficiency measures.

Social housing buildings that are to be newly constructed or purchased present a special case. In the case of housing stock to be newly constructed, those involved tend to emphasise investment and construction costs without due consideration of buildings’ future running costs. Often these involved parties only have a direct interest in the construction budget and not the total budget, and may be unwilling or unable to evaluate future costs, including those for energy and other resources. What is more, experience shows that few actors involved in a building’s construction have the training required to analyse a building’s lifecycle costs and guide construction practices to improve future efficiency. The known costs of construction are thus considered more carefully than unknown future costs. This focus on incremental costs can act as a barrier to energy efficiency investments in general, and also to investment in advanced smart metering based services.

Owners or buyers of new buildings may mistakenly believe that the efficiency of a certain building is very good even if it is not. In particular, buyers may mistakenly believe that new constructions automatically are so much more efficient that there is no need to take any further action such as implementation of smart metering. Increased energy efficiency in new buildings will hence not be of concern even despite of feasible and compelling opportunities. This might hamper have a negative impact on the willingness to invest in services: When buyers feel satisfied with their putatively-efficient building, they are less likely to take further action to improve efficiency.

Given these challenges facing housing providers, it is clear that incentives need to be strong enough to make them commit themselves to implementation. According to experience in the projects referenced and other pilot projects, most technical managers in housing companies are highly appreciative of the greater control over their buildings’ functioning which smart meter based energy management systems offer them in their day-to-day work.

In the face of increasing pressure to make buildings more energy-efficient, ems services empower technical managers to spot loopholes and weak points within the buildings’ energy system and address them through carefully targeted interventions. ems can also make energy distribution within buildings more efficient, resulting in cost savings e.g. in district heating systems and in systems including on-site power generation (e.g. renewables, CHP).

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 Tenant Association etc. about service

  • Impact
    • These institutions are trusted by Tenants and will fight against service if benefits are not understood
    • Insitutions 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

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

Weak engagement during holiday seasons

  • Impact
    • for survey conduction, this means fewer responses
  • Recommendation
    • Take holiday periods into consideration when planning any staff-related activities
    • Also relevant in administrative buildings

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 energy@empirica.com.

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

Invite for data / privacy workshop if legislation changes

  • Recommendation
    • Invite all key stakeholders to ensure trust remains untouched
    • Prepare and provide information material on regulatory change
    • Check whether understanding is the same
    • Then check whether changes need to be made to service and collect requirements as in initial set-up

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

Residential Buildings

A key determinant of user requirements are the main characteristics of social housing tenants. Research using large-scale surveys of social housing tenants across Europe established evidence for these features:

  • A large share of social housing tenants are above 60 years of age – typically around 40%;
  • By definition, social housing tenants have levels of income that are significantly below the national average, and many live on social security benefits;
  • Available data suggest that even today, more than one in two social housing tenants in the EU has no home access to a computer and the Internet. Those who have access tend to have low levels of digital literacy;
  • A significant share of social housing tenants are from ethnic minorities and has limited capability to use the national language of their resident country;
  • Directly associated with the four factors above, educational attainment levels are below national average.

Currently, smart gadgets are an up-market development performed with modernisations or with expensive add-on devices (e.g. NEST). It is therefore important to keep all groups in mind. The following non-functional requirements are typically relevant for the following groups:

Large group of older people

  • System/service design and dialogues should be compatible with user expectations (e.g. consistent dialogues)
  • Users should be able to determine pace and sequence of the interaction with the system/service
  • Similar functions should act the same throughout the system/service
  • Avoid memory overload through avoiding multiple steps to perform an action
  • Minimise workload through well organised desktop / displays
  • High contrast between characters and background
  • Alerts and warning messages: flash rather than have it come on and stay on
  • Avoid extraneous design: display only relevant graphics
  • Use familiar icons and symbols, e.g. traffic lights; avoid long text messages
  • Positioning of labels, icons, text messages should be consistent
  • Avoid jargon or unfamiliar terms; use non-technical language
  • Text on buttons should be descriptive (“send message” instead of “send”)
  • Use colours thoroughly and bear in mind colour blind people. A status should (hot = red, cold = blue) but also with associated text.

Large group of low income earners

  • Need for directing motivational measures towards increasing service usage (e.g. monetary presentation of consumption in € to show saving potential at user level)
  • Need for awareness raising about wider benefits of energy saving

Low home-based internet access rate

  • Alternative service access channels enabling to cater for given local peculiarities/circumstances
  • Options include set-up of public terminals for Internet access at entrance of buildings, access via TV, mobile phone applications, paper based information together with housing company brochure/newsletter
  • Capacity building specifically tailored towards novice users (e.g. low-threshold training measures where subsidised/donated access channels are provided)

Migrants highly represented

  • Provide clearly visible language button (country flag) at the start of the service use
  • Need for service/interface design that allows to cater for language/cultural diversity
  • Need for capacity building specifically tailored towards users with restricted language capacities
  • Use of Plain Language (see below)

Low education levels over represented

  • Use of Plain Language, i.e. language that emphasises clarity, brevity, and avoidance of technical terms.
  • All use of language should be in a way that is easily understood by the target audience: clear and straightforward, appropriate to their reading skills and knowledge, free of wordiness, cliché and needless jargon.

Data Requirements

Protection of data security and privacy in projects for implementation of smart meter enabled services should not be added on as afterthoughts, but they need to be an integral part of the project design phase, as BEUC, the European Association for the Co-ordination of Consumer Representation in Standardisation (ANEC) has stressed: “Privacy should be designed into smart meter systems right from the start as part of the compliance life-cycle and include easy to use privacy-enhancing technologies. We urge to make the principle of privacy by design mandatory, including principles of data minimization and data deleting”.


The topic is covered in Phase phase2`and the :ref:`710-content section full detail. The requirements tool by empirica GmbH also includes a sheet on data requirements alone ensuring consistency across your organisation.

In practice, meeting all data protection regulations can raise challenges because regulation in the area is undergoing continuous change, partly in response to newly emerging risks introduced by new applications of ICT using personal data.

Projects expecting opposition to smart meter implementation because of data protection related reasons should consider engaging an independent data privacy officer who advises the implementation team and responds to questions raised by users in all issues relating to the topic, and across all stages of the project.

Preparatory measures should include additional training of the professional staff in data protection. If not in place so far, all actors with theoretical access to data needs to develop sufficient sensitivity to the privacy topic in order to prevent individual employees from misconduct, which can quickly lead to a major backlash against smart meter implementation.

Data security and privacy

Check the following to-do list on hte matters of data privacy of future users.

  • Check national legislation and industry self-regulation concerning data protection in smart meter based service provision
  • Seek advice from independent data protection experts
  • Draft data protection policy make sure the data protection policy covers all elements and steps of the implementation process
  • Assign independent data privacy officer
  • Inform tenants pro-actively about the main data protection issues and how these are addressed by the project
  • Train own professional staff in data security and privacy
  • Check whether third parties must be given access to tenant personal data as well
  • Obtain data subject’s consent (letter of consent from all tenants)

Source: Partly based on: Cavoukian, A. (2012) ‘Smart Meters in Europe: Privacy by Design at its Best’, URL: http://www.ipc.on.ca/images/Resources/pbd-smartmeters-europe.pdf

Lessons learnt

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

Do not rely on availibilty of modern software

  • Impact
    • Institutions do not necessarily allow, for instance, modern browsers
    • Same applies for protocols supported by servers, backbones, routers etc.
  • Recommendation
    • Reduce dependency and try to use standard technology
    • Clearly define the requirements so ICT can check

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.


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

Authority sometimes required during implementation

  • Impact
    • Some Staff consider energy to be their domain alone and react defensive
    • Presence of department head in meetings eases tension and avoids unnecessary conflict escalation
  • Recommendation
    • Indentify early on which communication strategy is needed (top-down?)
    • Involve, if applicable, the department of occupational risk prevention

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

Setup information desk / kiosk

  • Impact
    • Especially a Visitor waiting will check out of interest
    • Content is mostly already available on portal, just needs to be linked or re-used
    • Makes service part of the “real” and not “only” digital world
  • Recommendation
    • Create simple design ideally using logo of service
    • Setup kiosk, visibly, in waiting areas at location where Visitor can stand for a few minutes without blocking the way
    • Kiosk should be rebootable to avoid maintenance effort
    • Use to communicate success achieved including monetary savings


This period covers the monitoring and ensuring success by implementing procedures and keeping information flowing. This also includes finding the next opportunity and hidden benefits.


At any time during service operation, problems can occur, be it with users, data delivery and quality or system maintenance. To prevent tenants from losing interest in the services implemented, the implementation team should maintain close contact to tenants and professional users. A pro-active approach to addressing emerging problems is highly recommended.

If not done already, a “Help Desk” should be set up and the checklists filled as part of Preparing Operation should be revised.


Impacts on Energy Efficiency and GHG emissions

Tracking results of initiatives for implementation of smart metering is a powerful tool to underscore their efficacy and promote public awareness. Tracked results can also be used as a rationale for obtaining additional funding or for gaining public support for a broader portfolio of programs.

The methodology for conducting measurement of the system’s impact on energy efficiency consists of the following components:

  • Definition of ratios, terms and options;
  • Presentation of relevant general methodologies;
  • Calculations of energy savings based on pre-post comparisons including the definition of baseline and reporting period, the methods for (temperature) adjustments and the consideration of different situations;
  • Definition of a control-group design as additional or alternative source of estimation;
  • Alternative options of savings calculations if neither pre-post comparisons nor control groups are appropriate;
  • Determination of further relevant parameters (persistence, statistical data analysis);
  • Methodology for demand response estimation (peak demand reduction);
  • Methodology for the estimation of avoided CO2 emissions.

It is recommended to make use of internationally accepted standards for evaluation of an intervention’s impacts on energy consumption. The International Performance Measurement and Verification Protocol (IPMVP) appears to be most suitable for the purpose at hand.


empirica has designed and hosts an online tool which applies IPMVP methodology such as correcting for heating degree days. The tool is called eeMeasure and all results of the projects referenced in Guide can be found its website.


The goal of Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA) is to find the point in time when the investment pays off but also potentials for further savings. It divides the analysis in a qualitative and a quantitative part. The approach presented here follows recommendations by the European Commission.


empirica has numerous tools, including a comprehensive CBA, covering all resources, supporting numerous stakeholders, CAPEX, OPEX and other indicators.

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]See in particular, Article 9-11 of Energy Efficiency Directive (2012/27/EU)
[2]©empirica 2014, Sources: Odyssee-Project, eurostat
[3]Brunner, Spitzer, et al. (2011). Experiencing fuel poverty. Coping strategies of low-income households in Vienna/Austria. Energy Policy.
[4]Die Welt (29.04.2012). Strom ist für viele Deutsche unbezahlbar geworden.