HESTIA and the BERCHIDDA Energy Community progress towards new participatory ways to manage energy

April 2022 saw the second round of face to face engagement in the Italian pilot of Berchidda. HESTIA partner GridAbility, the pilot leader, organised a busy week of activities in collaboration with two other H2020 projects about renewable energy, LocalRES and NEON, and the local municipality, which is setting up an energy community with the support of GridAbility and Energy4Com. For what concerns HESTIA, activities included a workshop for the households participating in the project, a women focus group, and an intervention in each of the three classes of the local middle school. Marta Arniani designed and moderated all the activities.

The workshop was held on April 12 at the local wine museum. It aimed to update participants on the project’s progress, showcasing equipment to be installed in each household and co-creating DR (demand response) interactions to increase their relevance to the citizens. Twenty participants, of which six women, attended the workshop. Participants showed great curiosity for the sensors and smart meters that will be installed at their place. GridAbility provided the items with an occasion to increase participants’ digital literacy through the concrete example of the project workflow. The most interactive part was the co-creation session, organised in working groups structured in three parts.

The first focused on the user journey: the objective was to harvest participants’ preferences around the interaction with Aug-e community app. Each group was presented with different steps of the DR interaction, and they had to articulate their preferences concerning timing, who should receive the instructions within the household and why, or which kind of feedback would prove more valuable to them. The second part focused on creating DR messages they would find appealing and motivating, starting from neutral formulations. Participants proved very keen to receive funny notifications with emoticons and, in general, an easy jargon that would not feel intimidating. The session was concluded by an open discussion about whether competition would be an engagement trigger and whether they would be interested in collective goals besides individual households’ recommendations. The sense of community is solid in Berchidda, and HESTIA participants are very keen to cooperate toward community goals and perceive competition as a negative element.

The women’s focus group was following an online survey dedicated to women. In order to make the project as inclusive as possible in a social context that sees women in traditional housekeeping roles, special efforts are dedicated to creating occasions to voice women’s opinions and perceptions. The focus group proved an effective way to rethink some stereotypical assumptions (the most digital literate participant was the oldest!) and get a real insight into households’ flexibility capacity.

Finally, the intervention in the middle school created the occasion to vulgarise the energy topic to tomorrow’s citizens and feed family discussions around saving energy and joining the energy community. It was also a pleasure to see how young people are aware of renewables and conscious of the global environmental challenges!

Once again, Berchidda’s community proved very interested in contributing to the local energy transition and learning about energy.

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