IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Fall 2014 - 46

Energy
Generation

7.1%
11.7%

Green Energy
Varies During
the Day

9.8%
Daily Profile

Green Energy Usage
and Calculated Points

Fig. 1. Schematic representation of the project UseGreenEnergy.Today.

the user about the use of energy by
others in similar way. Limiting the
feedback to percentages of green
energy creates an opportunity to
compare energy usage patterns
regardless of the size and configuration of the consumers' homes.
Therefore all consumers may be
engaged in the project: a person who
lives in an apartment can compare
his or her green energy pattern to a
person who lives in a mansion with
a big pool.
The consumers in the project are
also rewarded with green leaves for
high percentage of green energy
use (not with standing potential
problems caused by incentivising the wrong behavior, i.e., needlessly using green energy just to
increase the percentage use). This is
an element of gamification, which
increases motivation and commitment. As Fig. 1 shows, leaves
(points) are awarded for more green
energy usage, regardless of the volume of energy used. Leaves can be
converted by the electricity provider
into incentives (such as coupons)
or transferred to charity organizations. Points can be awarded instantaneously or - to promote staying
in the green energy usage profile -
converted into other incentives after
a longer period of time.
Individuals are given the opportunity to share their relevant energy
data with other participants, which
enables social influence to have an
effect. It should thus be possible
to form interacting groups of individuals, e.g., those living near each
other. Those who are the strongest in
46

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persuasion (e.g., activists), and those
located closest have the strongest
influence on the target of influence.
Social process can lead to the emergence of local opinion leaders who
are surrounded by followers [25] - a
natural configuration in processes of
dynamic social impact.

Energy Commons
While energy saving could still be
incentivized on individual basis,
there are some issues that seem best
solved through fostering collective
action. The importance of collective
decisions and collective action on
energy conservation becomes more
apparent if we redefine "energy con-

In her seminal work, Nobel Prize
Laureate Elinor Ostrom has identified a set of features that are present
in institutions governing a commons
in a sustainable way [27], which
she codified as institutional design
principles for solving similar collective action problems (a summary of
the principles is given in the Introduction to this Special Section). It
is clear that an energy prosuming
community (which is more economically viable than prosumers acting
individually) fits the definition of
a commons-governing institution,
where principles such as appropriation and provision rules adapted to
local conditions (principle no. 2) or
easy access to conflict resolution
mechanisms (principle no. 6) are
especially valid.
The situation is less clear with
a community of consumers, where
the provisioning is the task of an
external party (violation of principle
no. 1). However, the energy system
can still be seen as a complex socialecological system (SES) where
similar considerations as in a commons have to be made. Ostrom proposed a comprehensive framework

Pro-environmental social norms
are strong drivers of energy
conservation.
servation" into "managing energy
commons". This change of approach
not only underscores the collective
aspect of energy management (i.e.,
externalities inherent in the energy
usage system - the commons aspect)
but also points out that efficient and
sustainable energy management
comprises other challenges than
solely the decrease in energy usage
(coordination of consumers to even
out the demand is the prime example described above). Prototypical
energy commons consist of groups
of prosumers: individuals who form
a virtual power plan or micro-grid
(e.g., [26]), in which they sell excess
energy to a smart grid.

for the analysis of various SESs
[28]-[29], identifying variables
(pertaining to the resource systems, resource units, the users, and
the governance systems) that are
crucial for sustainability.

Towards Sustainable
Energy Communities
The institutional principles and analyzing framework together with the
psychological and social factors
described above form a skeleton
for supplying sustainable energy
management systems. Ostrom's
sociological approach includes few
social psychological variables and
could benefit from complementary

IEEE TECHNOLOGY AND SOCIETY MAGAZINE

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FALL 2014



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