Gamification could help to reduce peak energy use

Research out of Europe has found that gamification could help to reduce electricity consumption during peak times, while also cutting energy bills and carbon emissions.

Gamification involves applying elements typically associated with video games – think point scoring and competition – to boost participation and engagement in a subject matter.

In Europe the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland applied gamification to the energy market with an energy app for consumers, as part of the three-year CITYOPT project that finished up in January.

The CITYOPT Operational Tool was designed to help reduce household loads during peak power consumption in order to reduce the need for high-cost peaking plants. 

The tablet application was piloted in 140 households in Nice, France, with results showing almost 80 per cent of households reduced their electricity consumption when the need to do so arose.

“The application provides information on household electricity consumption and how it can be reduced,” a VTT statement said. “It increases consumers’ awareness of energy efficiency and their opportunities to influence their own consumption.”

Using the program consumers chose whether to participate in cutting electricity consumption by temporarily shifting loads. For example, during peak loads consumers were given the option of lowering lighting or changing the time washing machines, dryers or dishwashers were on.

Participation in the program was rewarded by the allocation of points for reducing and/or moving loads. Users were then able to allocate the points to a local charity, which then received a payment from the power company.

“This creates a direct, small energy saving for the consumer and financial benefits for charitable activities in the community, while electricity producers benefit from a more economical production method when avoiding peak production capacity,” VTT said.

Consumers only saved around €5 a year, which was expected as the goal was to shift loads from the peak 6-8pm time rather than to reduce energy bills. However, thanks to the gamification and charity angle, interest in the program remained high.

Gamification has also been applied in Australia, with Brisbane’s sustainability agency CitySmart conducting a successful gamification program to reduce the bills of low-income households.

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