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Constructing users in the smart grid - insights from the Danish eFlex project
Sophie Nyborg, Inge Røpke

Last modified: 2012-05-02


In the coming years the energy system is bound for a low-carbon transition due to concerns about e.g. climate change and insecurity of supply. In Denmark, as in many parts of the world, policy makers and the energy industry present the vision of the ‘smart grid’ as one of the most promising solutions to the upcoming challenges. This digital modernisation of the electricity grid is thought to enable better integration of fluctuating renewable energy sources and handle an expected increase in electricity demand.

When new provision systems are constructed and when old systems are radically transformed, many forces have to be aligned and usually some actors play the role of strategic system builders (Hughes 1983), who should come together in transition arenas to develop common guiding visions and innovate through learning-by-doing to steer the transition reflexively (Loorbach & Rotmans 2010).

This is also the case in relation to the smart grid in Denmark where the efforts of strategic system builders have culminated in the political decision to finalise a smart grid roadmap before the end of 2012.

However, an interest in exploring user roles in relation to the establishment of a smart grid has only recently begun to emerge. In this paper we report on one of the first smart grid related projects in Denmark where consumer aspects have been central. The paper draws on participation in a user study connected to the ‘eFlex project’ – a demonstration project aimed at investigating potentials for flexible electricity consumption through testing of e.g. a home energy management system. The testing involved 119 households in the greater Copenhagen area and was commissioned by the largest utility company in Denmark, DONG Energy. The aim of the paper is to discuss what can be learned from such projects and which roles they play in the wider construction of the smart grid.