IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - January/February 2017 - 60

Not only must customers become much more flexible in their
energy use, they must also be persuaded to adopt technologies
that facilitate greater reliance on renewable energy sources.
are signaled. For example, if compensating individuals or
communities financially is seen as a "bribe" or if an attempt
to engage the public is seen as insincere, people may not feel
that they are taken seriously.

Final Remarks
Consumers play an important role on different levels
in achieving flexibility in energy systems. In the first
instance, they can help make energy systems more flexible by changing their energy consumption patterns, resulting in load shifting and reduction in energy demand. To
do this, the acceptance and use of smart technologies and
energy efficient measures by consumers are needed. Also,
more widely, consumers' acceptance of energy infrastructure is necessary to facilitate a higher share of renewable
energy sources and transmission to ensure a more flexible
energy system.
The flexibility of the energy system (as well as other
energy research) is a complex problem that touches on
many different disciplines. There is an increasing amount of
research carried out in the disciplines of social science, economics, and humanities on the factors that underlie consumers' energy behavior and acceptance and how these may be
changed via policy interventions and market design. Hence, a
more integrated approach is needed within the social sciences
and humanities, as well as with energy researchers in other disciplines, such as engineering, environmental science, and computer science.
Future integrated energy research should focus on
understanding why consumers behave the way they do
and how policy instruments and market designs can help
to change consumers' behavior to enhance flexibly. This is
needed to better understand issues such as the interaction
of policy instruments, the effect of transaction costs, and
the assumptions of technology adoption found in the engineering literature. Currently, policies and markets strongly
favor the perspective of "rational consumers." However,
there is a vast amount of research on "irrational" consumer
behavior that can and should be better used to inform policy making and market design to alter consumer behavior
more effectively.
Ultimately, consumers need to become more flexible
because that will give future generations a better chance to
have a sustainable, reliable, and affordable energy system.
Energy systems should be designed based on the needs and

60

ieee power & energy magazine

desires of current and future society and energy consumers.
To realize this, designers of the energy system (e.g., engineers, environmental scientists, and computer scientists)
should be better informed by the work of the social sciences, economics, and humanities. In this way, a shift from
a technology-centered energy system toward a user-centered
energy system can be achieved.

Acknowledgment
This publication has emanated from research supported in
part by a research grant from the Science Foundation Ireland
(SFI) under the SFI Strategic Partnership Programme, grant
number SFI/15/SPP/E3125.

For Further Reading
H. Allcott and T. Rogers, "The short-run and long-run effects of behavioral interventions: Experimental evidence
from energy conservation.," Am. Econ. Rev., vol. 104, no.
10, pp. 3003-3037, 2014.
H. T. Haider, O. H. See, and W. Elmenreich, "A review of
residential demand response of smart grid," Renew. Sustain.
Energy Rev., vol. 59, pp. 166-178, June 2016.
M. A. R. Lopes, A. C. Henggeler, K. B. Janda, P. Peixoto, and N. Martins, "The potential of energy behaviors
in a smart(er) grid: Policy implications from a Portuguese
exploratory study," Energy Pol., vol. 60, pp. 233-245,
Mar. 2015.
N. Sintov and P. W. Schultz, "Unlocking the potential
of smart grid technologies with behavioral science," Front.
Psychol., vol. 6, pp. 1-8, 2015.
B. K. Sovacool, "What are we doing here? Analyzing
fifteen years of energy scholarship and proposing a social
science research agenda," Energy Res. Social Sci., vol. 1, no.
0, pp. 1-29, 2014.
L. Steg, G. Perlaviciute, and E. van der Werff, "Understanding the human dimensions of a sustainable energy transition," Front. Psychol., vol. 6, pp. 1-7, 2015.

Biographies
Geertje Schuitema is with University College Dublin, Ireland.
Lisa Ryan is with University College Dublin, Ireland.
Claudia Aravena is with Heriot Watt University, United
Kingdom.
p&e

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