EnergyKnip (‘EnergyWallet’) delivers energy support to residents in Emmen
Adri Wischmann – BlockchainLab Drenthe, Netherlands
EnergieKnip is a new blockchain-enabled service that went live in 2021. Residents of the Municipality of Emmen – with a population of 100,000 – who used the service could receive an e-voucher worth €50 euros per home if they anonymously completed 27 questions about how they used energy in their home. This €50 could then
be spent on energy-saving products at local hardware stores – but only on energy saving products and only at local hardware stores.
Policy and delivery goals
Emmen’s goal in supporting EnergieKnip was to deliver a service that helps residents to improve the energy efficiency of their homes and to actively participate in the energy transition by using a personalised energy reduction offer, that didn’t rely on direct support to deliver the service from municipal staff, and which supported the local economy.
EnergyKnip’s goals are to educate citizens about their household energy use and how they can change their energy use, to encourage users to install energy efficient devices in their homes to reduce their energy consumption, to increase the local demand for energy-saving devices, and to collect anonymous information about household energy use in Emmen (as Emmen didn’t understand this very well before the project).
Providing direct support to residents
Funds disbursed by the service came from the Dutch “Reduction of Energy Use Homes Scheme” (RREW), which provided money to local governments to support households to reduce their energy consumption.
The first time the Municipality of Emmen tried to award funding to residents, they sent out paper letters to residents informing them that funds were available to support home energy sustainability and reduce energy consumption. Seven months after the start of the campaign, only 16% of the available funds had been claimed.
The Energy Wallet was Emmen’s second try at giving out this funding and used a radically different approach. BlockchainLab Drenthe saw the opportunity to provide a more effective, privacy compliant service as an opportunity, and worked with the Municipality to develop and launch the EnergieKnip (“EnergyWallet”), a service that collected survey information on local energy use habits from app users, and rewarded participants who completed the surveys with tokens that could be exchanged for new energy-efficient equipment at local retailers.
This time the Municipality didn’t send out letters to residents: they delivered an unaddressed, cheerfully coloured card to each address. The card had a QR code and
a guide to downloading the EnergieKnip app. The Municipality had earmarked up to €300,000 to support for local households: the first funding round launched with €150,000, and that all of that was claimed within 13 days of the EnergieKnip launch. When a second round of funding was launched, an additional €150,000 was snapped up in just 10 days.
Using the IOTA Wallet
An IOTA-powered blockchain wallet was used to deliver the EnergieKnip service. IOTA was chosen as the platform for a token-based local funding program that gave participants a digital wallet to hold their tokens. The IOTA service reduces the administrative cost of organizing a local service, facilitates transactions, and, thanks to the transparent and immutable record of transactions on the blockchain, prevents fraud. On registration, the app automatically created a wallet for the user’s wallet reward tokens.
When participants filled out a survey in the EnergieKnip app on how they used energy in their home and on their energy consumption patterns, each answered question was rewarded with tokens that could then be redeemed for energy-saving equipment.
What users got
Participants who used the app and filled out the energy use survey were rewarded with tokens worth €50 per home, which were recorded in their IOTA wallet on the blockchain. These tokens could then be exchanged at local retailers for new energy saving devices – like energy efficient LED bulbs.
During the coronavirus lockdown, people could pick up a “Savings Box” with their EnergieKnip tokens – these boxes contained LED lamps, draft strips, and radiator foil. Once lockdown measures eased, app users were able to chose how to allocate their tokens on a set range of energy-efficient goods and tools.
Participating retailers were then able to exchange the tokens with the Municipality for Euros. “This is the power of earmarked money,” says Adri Wischmann from the Blockchain Lab in Drenthe. “Because people can only spend the money in set ways for particular purposes, the (local) government has a very powerful tool to easily ensure funds are spent appropriately.”
Collecting energy data, not people’s data
The EnergieKnip app has provided a mechanism for citizens to anonymously share their energy consumption data with local authorities. Emmen was able to quickly and cost-effectively collect a large amount of data about the energy uses and habits of 9,000 households, which the Municipality will use to improve their energy policies in future.
By design the process didn’t collect any personal data – so there was no information about individual residents or participants or their address data. EnergieKnip only collected energy-related data that was submitted by users – such as the age of their central heating systems, and whether residents left their curtains open at night.
Blockchain Lab and Emmen recognised that they would have to be very clear about how EnergieKnip was GDPR compliant and met all and data-privacy requirements, so that potential users wouldn’t reject the program because of privacy concerns.
To make sure that the data that was collected was anonymous and not traceable to individual households, randomised QR codes were sent out across the Municipality for users to use to activate the app.
Other best practices were that participants had to understand all the steps of the set-up, and that the collected data lead to a direct benefit for energy consumers and the Municipality via an easy to use platform.
The developers felt that it was important to provide an incentive for users to submit
information about their energy use – as not everyone is interested in being more energy efficient or needs financial support. But to do all of this anonymously led to the need to use distributed ledger technology to create the wallet for the incentive reward token.
A high profile success
EnergieKnip (and BlockchainLab) received extensive national and international media attention, with articles in China and even Al Jazeera contacting us to learn about our “Blockchain driven energy project”. Then came a series of invitations to national and international events where we were able to present EnergieKnip to new audiences.