Saving electricity the easy way

Adaptable energy management

No unneeded energy goes to waste: marmots lower the energy they need during winter hibernation by slowing down their breathing and heart rate to less than ten per cent.

Making it fun to save electricity

Rethinking consumption

Everyone can do their part to save electricity for a sustainable energy future. But how can electricity customers be motivated to think about their own electricity consumption? The company BEN Energy explored this question and found an innovative solution: on efficiency portals, energy consumption becomes a visible material and saving energy becomes a game where everyone wins. Repower is also involved thanks to the platform

Electricity is like that we breathe — it is invisible, intangible but yet always there. Electricity is just like air: we only notice how much we depend on it when it's not there. Fortunately, this is only rarely the case because supply is very reliable in Europe. Our electricity bill reminds us of how much we consume at relatively infrequent intervals — but electricity is comparatively affordable and many people do not think much about electricity and consumption. But it is precisely this challenge that has to be overcome for the energy transition to be successful and to lower electricity consumption in the future. In Switzerland, for example, the Federal Council decided to reduce electricity consumption by just around ten per cent to 53 terawatt hours by 2050 - even though the percentage of electricity that makes up total energy consumption will continue to increase due to substitution effects. To reach the ambitious targets, every individual needs to change how they think. The abstract material must be made exciting and tangible for end consumers to be sensitised to the issue of electricity.

Fun access to energy

This is the starting point for energy efficiency portals. The goal of these web-based applications is to encourage private customers to think about their electricity consumption in a fun way. An incentive system is designed to ultimately motivate customers to use less electricity and thus save money. The portals build on the latest findings in behavioural research. Once the electricity meter reading is entered, customers can compare their consumption with those of similar households in the same residential area. They can also create networks with friends and mutually encourage one another to save electricity in a team. Actively participating in the portal is rewarded with contests and attractive prizes. Another key element of the online platforms is what is known as “storytelling”. This includes mascots who welcome users to the website, give them tips and tricks and invite them to return to the page with new content — saving electricity is not a one-time activity but becomes a habit.

A platform for customers ...

There are three marmots on Repower's efficiency portal that motivate consumers to save electricity. The platform “” was developed by BEN Energy, a spin-off company of ETH Zurich that has had many successful experiences with several energy efficiency portals. Repower is also anticipating various positive effects from this new kind of web presence. In addition to the contribution to energy efficiency and sustainability, it is an important tool for interacting with customers. The portal helps us learn about our customers and their needs which, in turn, helps enhance customer loyalty. Users can also already find out about future technologies, products and services on the online platform. The portal is available in German and Italian.

... developed with partners

With “” Repower is also strengthening its partner strategy of becoming a service provider for other energy supply companies. Repower therefore worked together with various partners to develop the efficiency portal. The shared goal of the partners is to reach as many participants as possible because the portal becomes more effective as the number of users grows — for this reason, the project is also supported by the Energy Office of the Canton of Graubünden. The idea is also popular with another actor: Swisscom is assuming the costs for hosting the platform on its servers. And the platform is undergoing further development: BEN Energy is continuously optimising the portal with the latest findings from behavioural research and integrates additional applications at the request of the project partners. This way the portal is always up-to-date in terms of energy efficiency.

Interview with Jan Marckhoff, CEO BEN Energy

“The personalised user experience is important”

How did the energy efficiency portals come about?

We have been conducting research at the ETH Zurich for five years on changing behaviour when it comes to people's energy habits. The focus is an interface between IT applications, data mining and behavioural elements. We have developed a platform to examine how households can be motivated to change their behaviour with psychological behavioural feedback on their energy habits. Once we had seen how much we could achieve with the research tool, we further developed it to be used on the market by energy supply companies; BEN Energy grew out of this as a supplier of these services.

What do your experiences with efficiency portals show?

Our experiences are very positive. We've seen, for example, that there is a significant correlation between the use of our platforms and saving energy. Users who visit the portal often save more energy regardless of how much they consumed before using the platform.

Do customers also return regularly to the portal over the long run?

Fortunately, this is the case. For this to be successful, it is important that users feel supported and that the portal is adapted to their needs. For one visitor, for example, learning and monitoring options are the highest priority while, for others, it is participating in contests. The platform gets to know the customer better with every visit and can thus respond individually to every user's requirements. This personal support is the key to a positive user experience and for users to return regularly to the platform.