ENEL’s Initiatives On Customer Engagement

By smartgrider In DEMAND SIDE MANAGEMENT Posted 2015-05-13


Market structureLiberalized demand market; all customers may choose their supplier. About 17% of household and 36% of non-residential customers have chosen free market retailers. The remaining is served by the universal supply regime. DSOs are responsible for metering activities
Number of retail customersApprox. 37 million
Other Participants [Names and Countries]Siemens, Miele, SWK Setec, ProSyst, TU Dortmund, RUB, University DuE, all Germany
Electricity consumed- 2012>340 TWh
Peak Demand for Power - 2012>54,000 MWv
Net Revenue to Distribution Companies- 2010> 8 billion euro
Distribution Network830,696 km of LV lines / 379,705 km of MV lines
143 DSOs operate the electricity distribution networks in Italy [54 DSOs with less than 1000 customers]
1 main distribution company: ENEL Distribuzione is the first national DSO, covering the 86% of Italy’s electricity demand

Pilot Enel Info+

Project ValueConsumption monitoring to raise customer awareness and enable efficient energy use
LocationIsernia Province [19 towns]
FundingResolution ARG/elt 39/2010 [Tariff remuneration scheme]
Duration2012 - 2014 [ongoing]
Targeted CustomersUp to 8,000 eligible customers [residential and small commercial consumers, prosumers]
OtherParticipation on voluntary basis, with no cost for customers involved
PartnersEnel Distribuzione



ENEL’s Initiatives On Customer Engagement

In the context of a Smart Grids playing a crucial role towards low carbon energy scenarios, consumers are in the centre of these changes. They are expected to evolve from being passive recipients of energy services into more active participants in the energy market, shifting to more efficient and sustainable energy consumption behaviours. For this to happen, solutions to empower customers with improved information exchange and to enable innovative services to the end users have been developed by Enel.

Fully leveraging on the smart metering infrastructure and expertise, Enel Distribuzione developed a local meter interface, referred as Enel’s smart info®, which makes consumption and generation data available allowing the development of a platform for a bidirectional communication with the DSO’s systems enabling solutions for the Active Demand (AD).

In particular, Enel Distribuzione has launched in 2012 the Enel Info+ project[1] , a large scale trial in Southern Italy (Isernia Province), where the use of the Enel smart info device is tested under real operating conditions. Both residential and small commercial customers are being provided with higher quantity and quality information on their electricity energy consumptions, addressing customer awareness and paving the way forward a more active participation to the management of the electricity energy system.

Additionally, in the context of enabling in-home energy management solutions, Enel has launched in 2012 the Energy@home[2] pilot project in collaboration with Telecom Italia and Indesit: a domestic platform for the provision of Value Added Services (VAS) based upon information exchange is being tested in Central Italy, having the smart info as bridge between the devices in the Home Area Network (HAN) and the DSO’s systems upstream.

[1] www.enelinfopiu.it 
[1] www.energy-home.it 
[1] www.addressfp7.org/


To develop technological and commercial solutions to enable residential Active Demand has been the aim of ADDRESS[3] project, a large scale FP7 research project coordinated by Enel Distribuzione. The vision is that domestic and small commercial consumers’ electrical demand can be made flexible optimizing the operation of loads, embedded generation and storage system. Possible barriers against Active Demand development on the power systems and recommendations to remove these barriers have been identified. In particular, the DSO operational algorithms and prototypes developed within the project to enable and exploit Active Demand was tested in the Italian test site in Carpinone in order to validate them to ensure a reliable operation of active demand grid in presence of Active Demand (AD) and to verify if AD is exploitable for network problem solving.

[4] www.advancedfp7.eu 

FP7 funded project ADVANCED (Active Demand Value ANd Consumers Experiences Discovery)[4] launched in 2012 with the aim to develop actionable frameworks enabling residential, commercial and industrial consumers to participate in AD.

Furthermore, the benefits of AD for the key stakeholders and the inherent impacts on the electricity systems considering its potential contribution to system stability and efficiency are to be quantified taking different scenarios into account. This will be achieved through comparing the different AD solutions applied in Europe and enhancing them by the investigation of socio-economic and behavioral factors with direct involvement of real consumers. On this basis, key success factors of AD and recommendations for the future design of AD programmes will be derived.


Objectives & Benefits

Potential flexibility from customers is considered one of the largest untapped energy resources, mainly because of still insufficient consumer awareness regarding energy consumptions and the potential benefits of a smart energy use in consideration of network constraints. Paving the way forward the implementation of active demand solutions, the objective of the solutions developed by Enel has primarily been to establish a direct link between the electricity energy utility and the final customers, improving their consumption awareness and enabling their active participation to the electricity market. While enabling exploitation of flexibility from customer engagement in a secure and reliable manner, the expected benefits can be summarized as follows: 

  • More efficient and sustainable energy use (energy consumption reduction and shifting to off-peak hours) 
  • New advanced in-home energy services enabled (i.e. automatic load management, coordination of consumption and generation) 
  • New competitive market based on distinctive services opened to several market players (e.g. service providers, retailers, aggregators, TelCos)
  • Additional resources to manage the electricity energy system been enabled (e.g. better balancing of energy consumption and generation, load shedding, peak shaping, etc.) 
  • More efficiency and sustainability of the whole system (e.g. through energy consumption reductions, load shifting when renewable production is higher, etc.)


Project Design

Several use cases and functionalities have been developed and implemented under the ongoing customer engagement projects and trails, ranging from customer awareness and rationalization of the energy use to the validation of the AD products from the network operating management perspective. In particular, in order to validate the technical solutions developed while getting insights into how customers can be more actively involved in the energy system management, different initiatives, exploring different levels of customer engagement, have been launched over the years in collaboration with other partners, both at the national and European level as detailed in this section. At the national level, solutions for consumption monitoring to raise customer awareness and enable efficient energy use were first developed and are currently being tested under the Enel Info+ project, launched in 2012. At the same time, a wider scope, enlarging from consumptions monitoring to in-home control, has been in the focus of the Energy@home project, where other players alongside Enel Distribuzione (such as a TelCo and a white goods manufacturer) are involved.

At European level, the investigation of a comprehensive Active Demand framework, also including the identification of possible barriers and insights for a successful AD development, had already started in 2008 within the ADDRESS project, where a full interaction between customers and energy system was envisaged as step toward in-home control.

Privacy issues, also in relation to data collection and processing, have been addressed in Enel’s project terms and conditions, stating also parties’ rights and liabilities, always in agreement with the customers. Moreover, customer opting out has been guaranteed and participation stated on a voluntary basis with no cost for the involved customers.

Enel Info+

With the aim to demonstrate whether providing the end users with feedback on electricity energy consumption can address more efficient energy behaviours, a representative sample of families served by the Carpinone primary sub-station in the area of Isernia, are being equipped with an energy monitoring kit including the Enel smart info® together with dedicated interfaces. In particular, been designed as modular system, three different levels of analysis and functionalities have been implemented and solutions are Enel Distribuzione’s proprietary:

  • SEE: based on the use of the smart info’s full colour and touch screen in-house display, consumers have easy and continuous access to their household energy use pattern. Smart Info Display provides near real time and historical information on energy consumption, shown in bar graphs and pie charts to highlight mean value and distribution throughout tariff bands over different time slots (i.e. day, week, month, two months, year). Consumption habits are displayed together with the measured consumption data in the graphs, helping consumers identify variations. Historical data is stored for about three years. The instantaneous power is reported together with a scatter plot of its maximum historical values for different periods of time (a single day, one week, one month), thus the consumer can check whether its supply electricity contract is consistent with its actual needs. The instantaneous power values can be refreshed automatically as well as on demand. Tariff time bands are displayed, together with the date and time of tariff time bands switching and colours settings can be modified to be consistent with the user’s tariff structure. When the contractual power is exceeded an alarm is automatically generated likewise, so that load shedding is prevented. Through a dedicated wizard the customer can also measure the power used by a specific appliance. Besides pure information, additional feedback and alarms at pre-defined, modifiable thresholds (for example with reference to contractual power capacity limit), DSO’s announcements and contractual data are also notified for the customers;
  •  ANALYZE: based on the smart info manager, a software application is provided to the consumers in order to assist energy consumption data analysis directly on a personal computer. For prosumers who are generating electricity themselves, their energy production is shown alongside their generation to facilitate analysis of their net energy consumption;
  •  EXPLORE: based on the smart info mobile app, consumers/prosumers can remotely access their energy data directly from their smartphone.

Figure 10: Enel smart info functionalities.


The Enel Info+ project, started in December 2012 and will finish at the end of 2014.


Trial Energy@home

  • Project Value:  In-home energy management to enable load control and innovative smart services
  • Location: Mainly Fabriano and Jesi towns
  • Funding: Collaborative project Duration 2012 ~ 2013 (ongoing)
  • Targeted Customers :  50 (residential and prosumers)
  • Other :  Participation on voluntary basis, with no cost for customers involved
  • Partners :  Enel Distribuzione, Telecom Italia (TelCo operator), Indesit (white goods manufacturer)


Within the Energy@home trail, smart customer services are enabled through the implementation of an architecture model compliant with Zigbee Home Automation, providing the end user with higher quantity and quality of information together with tailored functionalities. An integrated management of distributed generation and customer loadsis performed locally while contributing to the security and stability of the whole electricity energy system. Given the available automated metering infrastructure, the DSO provides relevant certified meter data to other market players, which can add further information such as electricity price and tariffs to provide customers with innovative services. The reference system architecture consists of the following main elements:

  •  The Smart Meter, responsible for providing certified metering data and allowing a bidirectional communication between the DSO’s central system and the customer premises.
  • The Enel’s smart info®, which provides end users with certified information on electricity consumptions, through a standardized and secure bridge with the DSO’s systems. Being plugged in any house socket, it communicates with the smart meter through power line communication (PLC) and makes certified metering data accessible to other market players in a nondiscriminatory way. The Enel smart info assigned to a customer provides only the data coming from the smart meter which is contractually associated unequivocally to him;
  • The Smart Appliances, or white goods, are able to cooperate by adjusting their power consumption according to a pre-programmed preference or a signal from a third party. While preserving the quality of service and user experience, they are able to control their processes, offering flexibility in terms of time and energy profile;
  • The Smart Plugs, implementing an on/off control on the plugged energy loads which aren’t Smart Appliances;
  • The Home Residential Gateway allows data exchange between the devices in the Home Area Network and the Internet, through a cloud-connected service platform. In addition to the Home Gateway allowing the necessary connectivity, it acts as the central home coordinator resolving between appliance capacities and system requests. 
  • The Customer Interfaces, which are all the devices (such as personal computers) that can be used by the customer to monitor and configure his energy preferences.


Figure 11: Energy@home architecture

Alongside customer energy awareness and monitoring, additional use cases for automated control at customer premises have been defined and developed within the trial:

  • Load flexibility by the coordinated management of appliances, represents the full interaction of the home appliances as a result of the information coming through the meter alongside other signals such as applied energy tariffs. Such use cases include energy consumption monitoring, coordinated appliance planning and temporary reduction of power consumption taking into account the user needs: smart appliances can start functioning at non-peak (less expensive) hours and also cooperate to avoid overloads by automatically balancing consumption without jeopardizing an appliance’s designed function or performance;
  • Energy generation and consumption coordinated management, represents the cooperation between local renewable energy generation (e.g. roof PV panels, small wind turbines) and energy consumption. Customers, or in this case prosumers, can either consume or sell energy by accounting for network needs, tariff schemes, price signals and incentives, and shift their consumption accordingly. Application software and algorithms addressing the optimal use of energy accounting for several boundary conditions and signals are currently been tested in the trail.




As a step forward, an Aggregator that manages a portfolio of consumers is able to offer active demand services, in markets or through bilateral relationships, to the other market players. The Aggregator sends price-volume signals studied in order to be as simple as possible, and structured in a way that consumers can gain economic incentives if their load profile is within a certain band in a certain period.

However, the modification of the load profile stemming from the AD market may have a negative impact on network security and quality of supply, and contradictory actions might be performed, raising the need for coordination among the involved players. In particular, this implies that DSO plays a double key role: as validator and enabler of the AD requests and buyer of the AD products through markets or bilateral relationships. The electrical distribution network management in the presence of AD was tested in the Italian field test. The results indicated that it was not possible to involve an adequately high number of Low Voltage (LV) consumers, AD products were provided by means of one storage system (1MW, 0.5MWh). MV producers and customers were engaged for the test of the distribution network supplied by the HV/MV transformer of the Carpinone substation, covering 340 km of network, 10 MV feeders and 157 MV/LV substations. The developed functional architecture needed by DSO’s to implement those roles and responsibilities encompasses three levels: the Central Control Level, the HV/MV substation level and the MV/LV substation level, with intelligence distributed throughout. TSO validation was also included to investigate the whole chain of the Active Demand. In particular, the following steps and required systems and functionalities have been tested within the technical architecture envisaged by Enel Distribuzione:



  • Project Purpose:  To enable AD by developing technical solutions at the consumer premises and at the power system level, proposing recommendations and solutions to remove the possible barriers, identifying benefits for stakeholders and developing appropriate markets and contractual mechanisms
  • Italian test’s Value:  To test distribution network management in presence of Active Demand in order to verify operating conditions and enable a full exploitation of the AD products and services
  • Location of the Italian test:  Isernia (Carpinone)
  • Funding:  FP7 Program
  • Total ADDRESS Budget: 16 Mln€ (9 Mln€ EC fund)
  • Budget Enel in the ADDRESS project:  2Mln€ (1.3 Mln€ EC fund)
  • Duration:  2008-2013 (Ended)
  • Project Partners : Enel Distribuzione (Project Coordinator); UK Power Networks, Iberdrola Distribucion Electrica, Vattenfall, University of Manchester, Universidad Pontificia Comillas, Universita di Siena, Universita di Cassino, ENEL Ingegneria e Innovazione, VTT, VITO, Tecnalia, KEMA, Consentec, EDF-SA, ENEL Distributie Dobrogea, ABB, Landis+Gyr, ZIV, Philips, Electrolux, RLtec, Ericsson Espana, Alcatel, Current
  •  Aggregators send intended AD-actions to DSO for validation through the Active Demand Management System (ADMS), responsible for validation management and coordination with the TSO;
  • Technical Validation is performed by the DSO through the Distributed Management System (DMS), responsible for the verification of AD-products in terms of implied impacts on network management;
  • Validation is then verified by TSO (through ADMS);
  • Acceptance (or rejection) is sent to aggregator (through ADMS).
  • DMS sends the power information to emulate the AD-action through the SCADA system, responsible for data collection and remote control of network devices;
  • The SCADA system communicates the settings power to storage through a network data concentrator. The SCADA system remotely controls the power injected into and withdrawn by the network or by the storage system;
  • The SCADA system and DMS work together to detect the new state of network to determine the impact of AD on the grid.


Current Status & Results


Enel Info+ pilot project was launched in 2012 and currently involves 19 towns with a high penetration of renewable generation connected at the MV level, in the Isernia Province (Southern Italy). More than 8,000 eligible LV customers were sampled, of which there are more than 100 eligible prosumers, with an average age of 45 years and a low-medium computerization level were found. About 4,000 of these LV customers have already been equipped with the Enel’s smart info®.

In order to successfully activate consumers, Enel Distribuzione carried out information sessions, first involving local authorities and then customers. Meetings with mayors and a meeting with local consumers’ associations have been arranged to present the Enel Info+ project, to establish a successful collaboration and to explain the potential benefits of recruitment. More focused meetings have been also arranged with participants for them to know the project details.

Engaging Customers

Considering the lack of customer knowledge and awareness on electricity consumption and potential benefits from their active interaction with the energy system, a step by step customer engagement approach has been adopted. The LV customers have been initially equipped with the Smart Info Display and are therefore receiving basic feedback on their consumption. The rationale was to get customers used to a new technology, thus avoiding rejection of additional technologies and services. An upgrade is planned in the few months following installation, to progressively increase the complexity and value proposition offered. Prosumers receive an additional smart info device to manage both production and consumption metering data.

First results highlighted a remarkable use of the display, pointing out prosumers as the most active. Observed customers found it helpful to be informed of tariff bands once they had real time power monitoring. Small commercial consumers were shown to be particularly interested in these capabilities.

Flexibility enabled through customer engagement is generally a challenge to maintain in the period following initial recruitment. A web portal and a dedicated help desk have been designed and implemented to provide general information about the project and continuous technical support. Additionally, on the basis of the abovementioned investigations, participants will quarterly receive reports (e.g. evaluation of their level of consumption, also compared with the one observed in the previous year as well as with the other participants, the neighbours having similar-sized households, etc).

In the Energy@home project, 13 initial users have been involved in the trial since 2012 in order to validate the technology and to collect the necessary information to fine tune the developed functionalities and improve the customer experience. These enhanced engagement opportunities will support plans to extend the number of customers involved by 50, and to include prosumers. Initial feedback has shown positive consumer expectations for living with the technology and enhancing their awareness of energy consumption by specific appliances. The developed solutions have generally been found to be easy to use with a remarkable frequency of use. Customers also highlighted interest in overload notification and control, together with functionalities for in-house energy generation.

Measuring Impact

The customer sample living in the municipalities involved in the project have been observed by Enel Distribuzione since 2011, in order to collect pre-trial data on the energy consumption behavior. The energy consumption behaviors observed during the trial will be compared with the pre-pilot data and analyzed in relation to several factors (e.g. household size, number and type of appliances, etc.). To assure that the use of the Enel Info+ kit is actually responsible for any load curve changes, a control group of consumers, excluded from the trial participation, has also been selected and will be monitored throughout the project duration. Additional useful information will be gathered by three different sets of quantitative interviews, with the following objectives: (i) to define a representative behavioral model in terms of habits, household size, family composition, education, etc. before the massive distribution of monitoring kits; (ii) collect preliminary data on consumers’ awareness, technology understanding and attitude towards energy efficient use alongside first impressions of the Enel Info+ kit, two months before the planned installation; (iii) assess of customer energy behaviors at the end of the trail, thus estimating the effect of the developed monitoring technologies and solutions. Moreover, more focused interviews on a sample of about 20 residential consumers will be carried out under the project ADVANCED, to provide with useful insights into the socio-economic drivers.

Enabling the full active demand chain

Looking upstream the Active Demand chain (from AD buyers to aggregators), the DSO’s algorithms and prototypes to enable and exploit AD have been developed and run in the ADDRESS Italian field test, proving that flexibility from Active Demand can be used to solve network management issues. In particular, requests by deregulated players have been simulated and the DSO received bids for 5.50 MW for the intraday and day-ahead Active Demand market to be validated though properly fine-tuned algorithms. In some cases, a product curtailment was necessary to ensure a reliable network operation.

System operation results

Alongside the role of DSO as AD validator, the DSO as AD product buyer to resolve network problems (especially in presence of distribute energy source) has been simulated. The DSO bought Active Demand products totaling 0.3 MW to resolve expected network congestions thus avoiding MV cable overloading. No network violation was observed in the simulation. Also, the TSO’s role as an Active Demand buyer to solve transmission system problems was tested with the aim to limit reverse power flow phenomena through the HV/MV substation. The TSO bought Active Demand products totaling 1.2 MW in the MV network of Carpinone. Lessons


Learned & Best Practices

Active demand is not fully in place in Italy and a regulatory framework is still missing. As a matter of fact, pilot projects, as described above, have been launched to pave the way forward the implementation of the active demand solutions, from technological, commercial and regulatory standpoints.

According to the experience of the ADDRESS project at the European[1] level together with the ongoing national experiences in Italy, recommendations and lesson learned can be formulated as follows, with some insights on the necessary actions to be performed for fully enabling Active Demand in Europe:

  •  Consumer engagement and involvement: participation in active demand programs is voluntary; therefore a deep understanding of the benefits and implications from flexibility and adaptability of the consumptions (both from customer and a whole system perspective) should be addressed while maximizing the utilization of the technology. All contextual issues, as regional context, age, social conditions, are important and the full range of benefits has to be communicated to appeal to a range of customer values including not only financial benefits but also environmental benefits. Moreover, contracts and agreements with customers need to be understandable and transparent, and, as general principle, consumer privacy and data must be protected. However, alongside recruitment, a real challenge is to keep customers onboard: for this reason, the provision of technical support and frequent communication following technology installation are fundamental principles for continued involvement in managing the electricity system.
  • Coordination among the involved players and reliability of the electricity system: as earlier mentioned,AD can be used to contribute to solve network operation problems, thus representing an additional source for electricity System Operators (SOs). However, coordination is necessary among SOs and aggregators in order to properly localize load areas and assure network security and reliability while considering local constraints. Therefore, responsibilities have to be clearly set out and SOs’ regulation updated to include fixed costs associated to the services provided to enable AD and to purchase AD products (country specific).
  • Communications infrastructures: in order to enable an open market for services with positive business cases, standardization and interoperability of the developed solutions and devices need to be addressed. Therefore, the use of available, open and proven standards for AD related communication is recommended with no restriction to specific communication channels in order to avoid ruling out certain AD participants. Heterogeneous communication infrastructure needs to be acknowledged and interoperable standards preferred to assure a successful commercialization of smart devices.
  • Market and regulation: as general principle, consumers must be free to opt in and out, with clear rules on the ownership and protection of data need. Moreover, rules and mechanisms for verification and measurement of AD product delivery, fair allocation of costs and benefits among all the involved players, with a fair competition have still to be established and guaranteed for Active Demand to be put in place.

Three main challenges to the massive deployment of Active Demand solutions can be identified: (i) Active Demand implies a complex, multi-stakeholder system and requires several tools/devices to work together, thus featuring really high complexity; (ii) the full AD chain is not presently existing in EU and the regulation to exploit AD is not completely in place; (iii) to be fully exploited, AD programs should be understood and largely adopted by a suitably high number of consumers (whose constant involvement is one of the greatest challenges).

Therefore, we are still on the way toward Active Consumers who fully participate in the management of the electricity system. For AD to be successful, a gradual implementation should be carried out by first adopting solutions for monitoring (to raise customer awareness and involvement), then in-home control (to get customers used to technology), and finally full interaction with the electricity system (covering the whole AD chain).


Regulations, Legislation & Guidelines

Directive 2006/32/EC on energy end-use efficiency and energy services (translated in Italy into Legislative Decree 115/08) http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2006:114:0064:0064:en:pdf  

Resolution ARG/com 56/09 on a procedure for the definition of measures on demand management and control, and efficient energy use http://www.autorita.energia.it/it/docs/09/056-09arg.htm  

Resolution ARG/elt 22/10 on ToU tariff for domestic customers under the universal supply regime http://www.autorita.energia.it/allegati/docs/10/022-10arg.pdf  

Consultation DCO 34/11 on criteria for distribution and measurement for the regulatory cycle 2012-15  http://www.autorita.energia.it/allegati/docs/dc/11/034-11dco.pdf  

Directive 2012/27/UE of the European Parliament and of the Council on energy efficiency http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2012:315:0001:0056:EN:PDF


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