The Living Labs.
The STEP-IN Living Labs are a consumer-centric participatory approach to bring real long-term benefits to communities, households and consumers in need. The Living Labs are driven by:
Living Labs allow for an interactive communication amongst all actors – in STEP-in those are consumers in need, scientists, stakeholders and policy makers – in order to find concerted solutions that account for local contexts, cultures, and creativity potentials.
Each Living Lab in STEP-IN takes place in a unique setting:
Energy cafés provide an informal space in which households can meet with energy saving experts and receive advice, in a relaxed environment over a drink and some food. The energy cafés provide opportunities for local households to ask questions and discuss issues with energy experts, so that the communication is bi-directional and interactive, a process that has been shown to be effective at building trust and enhancing learning outcomes.
Energy cafés create a sense of common purpose, the feeling of equality between participants and an informal and convivial atmosphere that allows much more effective communication, advice provision and information exchange than is possible through more formal forms of communication.
Expert Home Energy Advisors
Energy advisors visit the homes of consumers in need. They provide detailed and tailored energy advice and training on a range of behaviour changes that will reduce energy waste in the home, for example: the efficient use of the heating system (check of thermostats, maintenance of oil burners, etc.), installation of a range of simple measures (radiator panels, LED light bulbs, draught proofing for doors, windows and letterboxes, etc.), time shifts for use of reduced energy tariffs, potential for savings from switching energy supplier (some suppliers provide reduced energy tariffs in hours selected by the customer), proper natural ventilation practices, etc.
Use of ICT tools
Dedicated ICT tools are used to encourage the tackling of energy poverty issues at an individual and community level. ICT interfaces and visualisation of home enery information aid improved consumer understanding. They also lead to better decisions towards higher efficiency products and appliances, and to adopting actions that reduce energy consumption. If permitted by the consumers and legislation the data is made available to their energy advisor to assist in providing further advice.
The energy cafés and energy advisor visits are connected with a number of public awareness, dissemination and training actions (leaflets, posters, newsletters). These provide additional support to vulnerable consumers to help them tackle energy poverty by providing information that can facilitate more sustainable energy behaviour and choices in everyday life (improving consumer understanding of energy bills, routing purchase decisions towards higher efficiency products, adopting more efficient energy practices, etc.).