What everyday habits use up our energy

Energy systems of the future

Inform and "nudge"

So what can be done to counter perseverance without issuing prohibitions? The statement names target group-specific, easily accessible, easily understandable information and advice as a central element. A method that was mainly influenced by Cass Sunstein, lawyer and former advisor to the former US President Barack Obama, relies on gentle “nudges”. If you see on the electricity bill that your neighbors consume less on average than you do yourself, this can motivate people to be more economical. Another example are energy labels on household appliances such as washing machines and refrigerators, which should make it easier to choose an energy-saving device.

While international studies show that “nudging” stimulates energy saving, there is so far only little empirical evidence for Germany. The academies acatech - German Academy of Science and Engineering, the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina and the Union of German Academies of Sciences therefore recommend further research into the effectiveness. Country-specific differences must also be taken into account. Noticeable effects have been proven for the USA. However, since American households consume around three times as much energy as German households, the savings potential in this country is much lower.

Intelligent and networked

If, in the future, we will primarily generate electricity from renewable energies, we need flexibility technologies to compensate for the weather-dependent fluctuations in wind and solar energy. As the academy project ESYS showed in the statement “Flexibility Concepts for Power Supply 2050” published in 2016, the most cost-effective way to buffer short-term fluctuations is through flexible consumption control (demand-side management). Batteries in electric cars could, for example, be charged and used to store electricity when the sun is shining and the wind is strong. As an incentive for consumers to participate in flexible consumption control, the academies propose supply contracts with dynamic pricing: If there is a lot of electricity in the grid, prices fall, if there is a bottleneck they rise.

The prerequisite for this would be intelligent control technology and the willingness of consumers to have some of their devices "remote controlled" from outside. A first step in this direction was the political decision to gradually install digital electricity meters, so-called smart meters. You can visualize the electricity consumption of a household and - in the sense of nudging - encourage people to save energy. Heating and cooling systems can also be controlled individually. “Consumers can use apps to evaluate and adjust their heating and cooling requirements. This not only saves energy, but also increases the comfort for users, ”says Ortwin Renn. “In addition, when it is controlled by apps, control remains with the consumer. This increases acceptance. "