Are building users prepared for energy flexible buildings—A large-scale survey in the Netherlands

Rongling Li, Gamze Dane, Christian Finck, Wim Zeiler

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    Building energy flexibility might play a crucial role in demand side management for integrating intermittent renewables into smart grids. The potential of building energy flexibility depends not only on the physical characteristics of a building but also on occupant behaviour in the building. Building users will have to adopt smart technologies and to change their daily energy use behaviours or routines, if energy flexibility is to be achieved. The willingness of users to make changes will determine how much demand flexibility can be achieved in buildings and whether energy flexible buildings can be realized. This will have a considerable impact on the transition to smart grids. This study is thus to assess the perception of smart grids and energy flexible buildings by building users, and their readiness for them on a large scale. We attempted to identify the key characteristics of the ideal user of flexible buildings. A questionnaire was designed and administered as an online survey in the Netherlands. The questionnaire consisted of questions about the sociodemographic characteristics of the current users, house type, household composition, current energy use behaviour, willingness to use smart technologies, and willingness to change energy use behaviour. The survey was completed by 835 respondents, of which 785 (94%) were considered to have provided a genuine response. Our analysis showed that the concept of smart grids is an unfamiliar one, as more than 60% of the respondents had never heard of smart grids. However, unfamiliarity with smart grids increased with age, and half of the respondents aged 20–29 years old were aware of the concept. Monetary incentives were identified as the biggest motivating factor for adoption of smart grid technologies. It was also found that people would be most in favour of acquiring smart dishwashers (65% of the respondents) and refrigerator/freezers (60%). Statistical analysis shows that people who are willing to use smart technologies are also willing to change their behaviour, and can thus be categorised as potentially flexible building users. Given certain assumptions, 11% of the respondents were found to be potentially flexible building users. To encourage people to be prepared for energy flexible buildings, awareness of smart grids will have to be increased, and the adoption of smart technologies may have to be promoted by providing incentives such as financial rewards.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalApplied Energy
    Pages (from-to)623-634
    Publication statusPublished - 2017

    Bibliographical note

    This is an open access article under the CC BY license


    • Building occupant
    • Building energy flexibility
    • Demand side
    • Smart technology
    • Smart grids
    • Questionnaire
    • Smart building


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