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Prosumer-Centric Communication for Solar PV Diffusion (completed)

Numerous environmental threats are motivating the transition to a sustainable energy system. Buildings are a major contributor in that they represent 39% of final energy consumption in Sweden while simultaneously providing a great potential for solar photovoltaics (PV). To adopt PV, building owners must navigate a complex landscape of technology options, suppliers, and economic uncertainties, challenging their decision making process.

Funded by: Energimyndigheten in the Design for Energieffektiv Vardag program

Time period: August 2019 – June 2022

Project partners: KTH Energy Technology, Beteendelabbet, Tyréns, Karlstads Energi, Karlstads Kommun, Liseberg och Örby Slott Villaförening

Background

One of the most promising techniques for increasing renewable energy generation is rooftop solar photovoltaics (PV). The Swedish government’s energy goals have PV providing up to 10% of electricity in 2040, a 30x increase from today. Solar PV installations are growing rapidly, due primarily to generous state subsidies, rapidly declining prices, and strong public interest. However, the subsidies are expensive and being questioned as the most effective use of state funds while prices are stabilizing. Even though values and attitudes towards environmentally positive technologies are strong in Sweden, there is a risk that the extrinsic motivators (i.e. subsidies) are hiding the so-called value-action gap. For successful diffusion of solar PV, communication and education techniques will need to be more user centric in order to build stronger intrinsic motivations towards adoption.

Aim and objectives

The goal of this project is to develop the most effective techniques from behavioral economics to create a scalable, prosumer-centric communications framework. A design thinking approach will be used to identify the needs and barriers from multiple stakeholder’s viewpoints, followed by an agile prototyping phase to test ideas and techniques. The resulting framework aims to deliver a scalable method of communication that provides better heuristics to users for complex decision making while nudging them towards sustainable choices and greater PV adoption.

The societal goal of this project is to increase solar PV installations in Swedish buildings beyond the subsidy driven, early-adopter phase. Our project helps accomplish this by identifying the most effective techniques from behavioral economics to create a scalable, user-centric communications framework. Reaching this goal requires meeting the needs of multiple stakeholders, which will be treated with a design thinking approach. The resulting framework aims to deliver effective communication methods that provide better heuristics to users for complex decision making while nudging them towards sustainable choices. It also aims to give energy companies a scalable method of sales communication that reduces customer acquisition costs, further enhancing adoption potential. The design research of this project may also lead to new interaction points between companies and customers where innovative business models can emerge.

Outcomes

The first half of the project focused on understanding the problem of information delivery around solar PV. We wanted to know how people search for information and what it is they are seeking. Activities included a workshop with Liseberg and Örby Slott Villaförening, 28 interviews with three types of building owner (villas, housing cooperatives, and professional property mangers), and a detailed review of existing online solar calculation tools. The result is a User Journey Map that provides the perspective the average homeowner as they attempt to learn and shop for solar PV.

The result is a very challenging environment with fragmented information sources. The purpose and form of most online sources are too varied to be comparable, in particular the assumptions used to provide economic predictions. This makes it difficult to corroborate claims and quotes, particularly since most of the optimistic calculators are provided by PV sellers. To be effective, information should be personal, transparent, simple, and educational. These principles are used to design and execute the new solar map based calculators from Tyrens and Karlstads Kommun/Energi.

SolarMapExampleImage_v2

The maps are live (see links below) and are now hosting our experiments about user interaction and the effectiveness of competing communications techniques. By testing in the “real world” we hope to see natural searching and shopping behavior emerge. Results from the experiments will be published in Q2 of 2022.

Check out Tyréns SunEngine  and Karlstads Solkartan  which service five cities across Sweden: Huddinge, Södertälje, Gothenburg, Malmö, and Karlstad.

Read the full final report published at the Design for Everyday Energy Efficiency website

Media

Presentation at the 2021 Design for Energy Efficiency Lifestyles annual conference (10 min)

KTH press release on the launch of our new solar maps (in Swedish)

KTH press release on calculating PV investment (in Swedish)

KTH digital futures Deep Dive seminar, The role of information in household PV adoption (45 minute presentation)

Academic Publications

Sommerfeldt, N., Lemoine, I., Madani, H. (2021) A user-centered design approach to identify behavioral biases in household solar PV adoption In: Xianli Zhu and Gabriela Prata Dias (ed.), 6th European Conference on Behaviour Change for Energy Efficiency (pp. 134-137). Copenhagen

Galli, F. Predicting PV self-consumption in villas with machine learning. KTH Royal Institute of Technology, MSc. Thesis. 2021.

Sommerfeldt, N., Lemoine, I., Madani, H. (2021) Hide and Seek: The supply and demand for information for household solar photovoltaic investment. Energy Policy. 10.1016/j.enpol.2021.112726

Galli, F. and Sommerfeldt N. (2021) Predicting PV self-consumption in villas with machine learning In: 38th European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference and Exhibition, Lisbon

Tóth, M. and Sommerfeldt, N. (2022) PV self-consumption prediction methods using supervised machine learning. In: BuildSim Nordic 2022. Copenhagen

Tóth, M. PV Self-Consumption: Regression models and data visualization. KTH Royal Institute of Technology, MSc. Thesis. 2022

Hjort, L. Evaluation of a Solar Map: Investing in household PV from a prosumer standpoint. KTH Royal Institute of Technology, MSc. Thesis. 2022

Project contact persons

PARMENIDES – Plug & plAy EneRgy ManagEmeNt for hybriD Energy Storage
HYSTORE - Hybrid services from advanced thermal energy storage systems
Open-source models for holistic building energy system design at scale
Tank to Grave Management of new Low-GWP Refrigerants (Hantering av nya låg-GWP köldmedier från installation till destruktion)
Novel tool and guidelines for designing ground source heat pumps (GSHPs) in densely populated areas
Data driven lab for building energy systems
Long-term performance measurement of GSHP systems serving commercial, institutional and multi-family buildings
RE-Park
Smart Control Strategies for Heat Pump Systems
Open-source models for holistic building energy system design at scale
Control systems for hybrid solutions based on biomass fueled Stirling engines, solar and wind for rural electrification
Prosumer-Centric Communication for Solar PV Diffusion (completed)
Towards Sustainable (Fossil-free) Heating System in Small Residential Buildings
Solar energy and ground source heat pumps for Swedish multi-family housing (completed)
Solar photovoltaic systems in Swedish cooperative housing (completed)
Smart Control Strategies for Heat Pump Systems (completed)
Creating and Understanding Smart Innovation in Cities
Building heating solutions in China
Accelerating innovation in buildings
High-Resolution GIS District Heating Source-Load Mapping
Smart Solar Hybrid Solutions for Sustainable European Buildings
Digitalization and IoT technologies for Heat Pump systems
Sustainable combined systems for heating of buildings (completed)
Cost- and Energy-Efficient Control Systems for Buildings
Situation of Opportunity in the Growth and Change of three Stockholm City Districts (completed)
Wuxi Sino-Swedish Eco-City Project (completed)
Future Secondary Fluids for indirect refrigeration systems
Smart Fault Detection and Diagnosis for Heat Pumps
Performance indicators for energy efficient supermarket buildings
Magnetic Refrigeration
High-Resolution GIS District Heating Source-Load Mapping
Smart Solar Hybrid Solutions for Sustainable European Buildings
Building state-of-the-art (SotA) supermarket: Putting theory into practice
Efficient utilization of industrial waste heat by low temperature heat driven power cycles – an integrated approach for Swedish Industry
Cooperation between Supermarkets and Real Estate Owners; Energy Efficiency and Business Models
Digitalization and IoT technologies for Heat Pump systems
Capacity control in Heat Pump systems
Alternative secondary fluids
Functional surface coatings for energy efficient heat pumps
Two-phase flow in flat channels
Two phase heat transfer & pressure drop with new environment friendly refrigerants in minichannels (completed)
Numerical Study on flow boiling in micro/mini channels (completed)
Distributed Cold Storages in District Cooling
Integrating Latent Heat Storage into Residential Heating Systems
Simulation of temperature distribution in borehole thermal storages supported by fiber optic temperature measurements (completed)
Solar energy and ground source heat pumps for Swedish multi-family housing (completed)
Neutrons for Heat Storage, NHS, (completed)
4D Monitoring of BTES (completed)
Aquifer Thermal Energy Storage (completed)
Deep Borehole Heat Exchanger (completed)
Combined Heat and Power plants in combination with borehole thermal energy storage (completed)
Improved borehole technology for Geothermal Heat Pumps development (completed)
Compact Minichannel Latent Energy Storage for Air Related Cold Storage Applications
Building heating solutions in China
Toward Sustainable (Fossil-free) Heating System in Small Residential Buildings
Renewable Energy Park, RE-Park (completed)
Efficient use of energy wells for heat pumps (completed)
Efficient design of geothermal heating systems (completed)
SPF (completed)