Cities as Drivers of Social Change (CIVIS)


Funder: European Commission

Duration: October 2013 – September 2016

Researchers: Dr Ritsuko Ozaki

Smart grids make current energy networks more intelligent and accessible; new ways of producing energy will soon make citizens not only energy users, but also energy producers. The Cities as Drivers of Social Change (CIVIS) project explores the potential of social networks and communities to significantly reduce energy use and carbon emissions. We will enable this by developing business models for the resulting energy value system and support it with the necessary ICT.

More specifically CIVIS will implement a distributed ICT system to:

  • manage communities’ energy needs,
  • negotiate individual and collective energy service agreements and contracts,
  • raise awareness about the environmental impacts of collective energy use, and
  • allocate energy production resources more efficiently.

This EU FP7 funded project will focus on two pilot neighbourhoods located in Trento and Stockholm in close collaboration with energy companies, citizen groups and local administrations. Project partners will test and evaluate the technology, clarify business potential and estimate the impact of envisioned deployment on a European scale.

In the Business School work, we specifically look at the barriers, drivers and pathways to individual and collective ‘prosumer’ participation in social energy markets and the democratisation of energy, in collaboration with researchers in the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering. Particular attention will be paid to the potential advantages and challenges of collective action, pro-social values and sense of community in encouraging and shaping participation. Actionable findings will be generated from an analysis of current context, participants’ experience and experimentation on the trials, with recommendations covering the role of ICT and technology, market dynamics, regulatory issues, and social dimensions. This work will be key to the iterative user-centred design process and the real-world trials of smart, decentralized and social market platforms for fostering active market participation and sharing/trading of energy by individuals and groups.

The specific objectives are: to identify the regulatory, institutional and market context, opportunities and challenges, barriers and risks for distributed energy sharing/trading; to assess the level of public acceptance, learning and engagement within distributed energy systems, and the potential role that social dynamics can play; to identify features of smart, decentralised and social market platforms able to maximise participation and impact; and to identify and evaluate related risks and potential contingency measures.