Home energy management in smart homes: what role for householders?
Gert Spaargaren (Wageningen University)
Paper short abstract:
The potential role of smart home dwellers as 'co-managers' of energy is contested. A Dutch case study of how Home Energy Management practices are performed reveals how smart energy management technologies (fail to) facilitate novel trust relationships and take-up of low-carbon objectives and skills.
Paper long abstract:
Smart grids enable householders to contribute to the better matching of renewable energy generation and demand. Smart homes are a key component of this smart grid vision. However, the potential role of smart home dwellers as 'co-managers' of energy in smart grids has been widely contested in (social practices) literature. Drawing on the findings of 16 qualitative interviews and 'show-and-tell' conversations with householders involved in a Dutch smart grid pilot project, the paper analyses how home energy management is performed in everyday life with a focus on three technologies: monitoring technology (in-home display, online platform), the smart (remote controlled) heat pump, and the home battery. The case study describes how and why householders engaged and disengaged themselves with energy management during subsequent phases of the pilot project. The analysis shows that householders develop and internalize energy management skills, understandings, and objectives through the performance of Home Energy Management Practices. However, energy management technologies effectively distribute energy management powers and responsibilities across households, technologies, experts and market actors in varying ways, often taking agency away from householders. The implications of this are discussed in relation to the emerging trust relationships between residents of smart homes and providers of (smart) energy management technologies and services.
The social life of smart homes