The Netherlands’ commitment to discontinue natural gas use by 2050 requires the cooperation of 7 million households. Technologically, the solutions are already there. You can install an all-electric heat pump, heat grids can be built, solar panels can be installed, and there are more options. However, many people do not know how to choose, what to choose, or when to switch, and are waiting for others to take the first steps. 

In the ENRGISED project, IDE researchers together with Social Science and Computer Science colleagues of University of Utrecht investigate social contagion of decision making, or in other words, how people are influenced by others in their networks to switch to renewable energy sources. They tackle questions such as: How do you identify households that can be responsive targets to energy transition stimuli? What kinds of stimuli (social, economic, design) can increase the likelihood to adopt alternative sources of energy? How likely would the transition of a specific household result in a cascading effect (of adoptions) by other households within that neighbourhood network? What system interventions can increase this likelihood? 

To address this major challenge the project maps, analyses, and models the social relationships between households and the interdependency in decision making. This information will be used to design social interventions and tools to accelerate the energy transition in networks.

The role of TU Delft’s Sustainable Design Engineering team is primarily to develop an intervention strategy in which citizens mobilise each other and help make alternatives acceptable. This will include energy transition tools, a toolkit for general use, and a transition design framework. With local partners this strategy and toolkit will be tested in field trials. The objective is to make energy transitions contagious. Ultimately, this would result in social innovations that actualise the Netherlands’ commitment to discontinue natural gas use by 2050.