Participation is often not (yet) perceived as such

 

Surveys show that people are certainly willing to get involved in the energy transition. With the advancing digitalisation and flexibilisation of the energy system, there are also more and more opportunities for end consumers in households to actively contribute to the energy transition, for example as prosumers (i.e. in an energy-producing and consuming role at the same time). The challenge is to link the desire for participation in the energy transition with concrete measures as  measures taken and their link to the energy transition are often invisible to people in their everyday life. Energy efficiency measures or electricity price increases, on the other hand, are very well perceived, but are primarily seen as cost factors. The sticking point is the not yet perceived link between individual measures and the energy transition as a whole.

In the future, citizens must be made more aware of the fact that they are already an essential part of the energy transition or at that they can be in the future. It is essential to show in an understandable way which steps are necessary for a successful energy transition, which (also non-financial) added values are generated and how one's own contributions can look concretely.

Participation is a prerequisite for success

Broad societal support and increasing participation of the population are crucial for the successful implementation of the energy transition. For in the absence of acceptance, the energy transition risks stalling, e.g. if corresponding measures are rejected in everyday life. For this, “passive advocats” in particular should take a more active role in the energy transition and, at the same time, people completely "uninvolved" until now should be won over for the energy transition

Low-threshold services as "door openers"

For participation to become a successful and meaningful practice in the context of the energy transition in the future, it must start earlier than simply pointing out predefined or already decided options for action. Exchange and dialogue with broad social groups and the corresponding results must already be included in the design of measures. This not only imparts knowledge and promotes understanding. Rather, citizens are empowered to take a substantive and responsible role in the energy transition. This in turn has a positive impact on the acceptance of measures.

In the SINTEG area of Participation & Acceptance, blueprints for involving the population were developed. They serve to support people from politics, business and science in using participation formats that are suitable for them. In particular, these blueprints are aimed at local politicians, local energy suppliers, municipal utilities and experts from the fields of participation and communication sciences.

One of these blueprints deals with the involvement of previously "uninvolved" people, i.e. people who do not yet see themselves as part of the energy transition. The SINTEG showcases have demonstrated that this aspect can be a key factor for the success of the energy transition, which can be addressed in many ways through low-threshold participation formats.

The following four success factors have emerged:

Innovative ideas arouse enthusiasm
Getting on a tram and learning about the energy future in several one-minute talks during the journey - this approach was successfully implemented by the C/sells showcase with the "Tram Talks". A similarly creative approach was tried out by the enera showcase: the energy transition was communicated to local people through chance encounters on a bike tour on e-load bikes through East Frisia. Other formats such as various WindNODE Challenge competitions and Energy Meets have succeeded in addressing previously uninvolved groups in their everyday lives and establishing a natural connection to the topics of the energy transition.

Comprehensible, interactive presentation offers easy access
With a playful approach via a roadshow, the NEW 4.0 showcase made the energy transition tangible for citizens. The local anchoring of the presented content was particularly inspiring. Similarly, the WindNODE showcase demonstrated that comprehensibly prepared information - such as from the WindNODE Showroom Energiewende - can provide previously uninvolved people with easy access to the energy transition.

Cooperation with local multipliers creates regional relevance
Giving the energy transition "faces" is an approach that several showcases have successfully implemented by creating targeted points of contact with the energy transition through locally known multipliers such as associations or decision-makers from politics. Similarly, the DESIGNETZ showcase has worked with local politicians in various demonstration projects to shed light on the regional context of the energy transition. What is conducive to this is a consolidated relationship of trust with these people as well as their positive impact on the public.

On-site presence promotes dialogue
Face-to-face conversations at eye level, e.g. in the local marketplace, can create trust and effectively promote understanding, especially among older "uninvolved" people. This group in particular can only be reached to a limited extent via online channels such as social media. People's concerns, worries and fears can be addressed in a targeted manner - regardless of their level of knowledge and individual opinion. In addition to sending one's own messages, active listening is essential so that, for example, participation formats can be further sharpened in the future and adapted to local and regional needs.

Expert Quote

„SINTEG has clearly shown that the goals and meaning of the energy transition have not yet been understood everywhere. Previously "uninvolved" people are therefore an important target group that needs to be involved. Only then can complex and uncomfortable measures of the energy transition be understood and accepted in society..“

Hanno Focken, SINTEG-Subject Matter Expert 

What remains after SINTEG

Those who are still "uninvolved" today can already make an active contribution to the energy transition tomorrow. Accompanying developments such as the ramp-up of e-mobility can contribute to this, e.g. if intelligent charging control is used to reduce the load on grids in the future. More and more households are also acting as prosumers. Once active, citizens can also access technical and market forms of participation even more easily. However, corresponding forms of participation are currently not oriented towards the needs of users. Instead, they focus on technical feasibility and economic efficiency. SINTEG has focused more on the perspective of users and has tested concrete possibilities of involvement, e.g:

Dynamic electricity market tariff
With the dynamic electricity market tariff of the municipial utility Norderstedt, NEW 4.0 influenced the electricity consumption of households through financial incentives. Around 1,000 households were each equipped with four switchable sockets - a smart meter was mostly already available. Using an app and a colour scheme on the sockets, the households could see whether surplus wind energy was available and use it accordingly at a reduced rate.

Intelligent electricity saving
With the smart readout and communication module SAM, enera helped households in northern Germany to save electricity. The module was connected to households' modern metering devices and recorded electricity consumption. Information was provided via app so that households could reduce their consumption in a targeted manner.

Flexibility platform against grid bottlenecks
In order to solve grid bottlenecks in the distribution grid in a decentralised manner, C/sells has successfully used the flexibility platform Altdorfer Flexmarkt (ALF). With smart metering systems and the ALF app, households and companies were able to market and make available their own small flexibility options - e.g. through PV systems or night storage heaters.

Management of electricity surplus
DESIGNETZ tested how local surplus electricity can be optimally used in households with the multi-stage energy management system Energiewabe Rhein-Hunsrück-Kreis. This is because in the project region, electricity production from renewable generation often exceeds local demand. This surplus was bundled locally and used when the grid load was too high or when voltage fluctuations occurred.

These participation options tested in SINTEG can be transferred and applied to a wide variety of regions in Germany. However, dynamic adjustments in the energy system (e.g. in the course of digitalisation) require continuous further development of the corresponding participation formats so that the willingness of households to participate is maintained in the long term.

Outlook

The final report on participation and acceptance, which will be published at a later date, will go beyond this article to address further participation opportunities in the energy transition and describe them in detail. The central topic of the final report is future participation opportunities in the context of the energy transition. In particular, it addresses the promotion of acceptance and focuses on participatory elements such as dialogue and concrete technical and market integration.

After the focus report on grid-serving flexibility mechanisms, this contribution is already the second in a series of contributions from the SINTEG synthesis. Further focus contributions on this website are also being produced on the individual synthesis fields of flexibility potentials and sector couplingdigitalisation and regulatory sandboxes. Each of these contributions provides a brief insight into the comprehensive results reports that are still to come. After completion, the final reports will be available for download under publications.