Accepted Paper:

Designing a new electricity consumer  


Trine Pallesen (Copenhagen Business School)
Rasmus Jenle

Paper short abstract:

The paper reports on a smart grid experiment for the making of a new retail electricity market integrating fluctuating electricity generation into electricity systems. An outline of design challenges faced by the market engineers when dealing with different and lacking conceptions of consumers is provided.

Paper long abstract:

The paper presents preliminary findings from an ongoing smart grid experiment on the Danish island Bornholm. The ambition behind the experiment is to control the timing of electricity consumption by engineering a control system market which uses variable electricity prices as the control signal. If successful, the new assembly will allow increasing amounts of intermittent electricity generation from wind turbines to be integrated into energy systems. Making this new market involves a twofold challenge; on one hand, the previous round of experimentation made it clear that consumers must be equipped and disciplined in order to comply. The engineers here see a need "…to move beyond conceptualizations of the consumer simply as system load" (EcoGrid 2.0 project team member A) - a load characterized by the features of the agent described in neoclassical economic theory. On the other hand, when acknowledging that the experiment involves producing a new consumer, the necessary idea of the predictable and constant economic agent as previously inscribed in the markets design is lost. The flexible consumer is at the heart of the markets design, yet the consumer remains a "black box" (EcoGrid 2.0 project team member B).

Drawing on recent literature on economic experiments (Muniesa and Callon 2007; Guala 2007) and Peirce's (1905) pragmaticist notion of experimentation, we follow the engineers' problematizations of the consumer - and their attempt to develop distinct solutions that may allow for the production of reliable and predictable consumers.

Panel T098
Energy Experiments