Social License
to Automate


The Social License to Automate Task investigates the social dimensions of user engagement with automated technologies in energy systems to understand how end-user trust to automate is built and maintained in different jurisdictions and cultural settings.


Who would you trust to control your air conditioner, battery or washing machine? This question is becoming increasingly important as grid operators and aggregation firms trial automation projects to participate in markets, stabilise electricity delivering during peak periods and build flexibility in power grids increasingly characterised by distributed sites of generation, storage and consumption. Automation technologies facilitate load shifting and shaving in peak demand periods through direct load control and pre-programming of appliances in the home. Their automated character ultimately requires trust in organisations.



As policy and market drivers of decarbonisation accelerate the uptake of distributed energy resources, the need for rapid electricity system responsiveness to the variability of wind and solar supply and variable demand increases. Leveraging the full capacity of this growing, but highly distributed resource requires real-time automated access to the energy sources situated within residential and small-scale commercial systems. Without automation, demand side management is unlikely to provide the electricity system with the fast-acting response needed to manage changing network and system requirements. 



The Task seeks to understand the dynamics of trust and related social dimensions which determine user engagement with automation technologies in demand side management.



By building and sharing knowledge through case study analysis and expert collaboration across the participating countries, the Task constitutes a platform for reflective, cutting-edge interdisciplinary research and stakeholder engagement on how trust is built and maintained between different energy users and suppliers.



The Task will identify what is required to build and maintain the ‘social licence’ – which includes user understanding, acceptance and trust – essential to the success of automation technologies for demand side management.


  • Subtask 1: Common template for social and technical research approach
  • Subtask 2: Desktop and case study data collection and analyses 
  • Subtask 3: Understanding trust to automate: social, economic, institutional and technical dimensions
  • Subtask 4: Country profiles and policy relevant body of knowledge



The deliverables include an international report of all cases analysed, individual country case study reports, briefing papers, conference presentations and journal articles. 



Confirmed participating member countries include Austria, Australia, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States of America

Annex duration: 25 October 2019 – 25 October 2021

Researcher Profiles


During 2020, we welcomed many new researchers to the project:

Norway: Ida Marie Henriksen, holds a PhD in Sociology (social interaction/urban sociology) from NTNU. She is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies of Culture Energy, Environment and Climate research group led by Professor Ryghaug. She is also affiliated with the Centres for Environmentally-Friendly Energy Research in Norway and Cineldi, which focuses on flexible and robust electricity distribution. Dr Henriksen and Professor Marianne Ryghaug are following the recruitment of Stromfleks pilot users who are trying automated management of flexible consumption in household heat pumps, EV charging and boilers.

Netherlands: Rishabh Ghotge studied Mechanical Engineering at the Manipal Institute of Technology, India. Wanting to be part of the global energy transition, he pursued a Masters in Renewable Energy at the University of Oldenburg in Germany, later specializing in solar photovoltaics at Northumbria University, UK. He was at the Solar Energy Application Centre in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, helping design and analyze solar charging stations for charging electric bikes. He is currently a Doctoral candidate at the Delft University of Technology, working on various aspects of integrating electric mobility (both battery and fuel cell based) in energy systems with high shares of solar energy. He is working with Prof Zofia Lukszo on the PowerParking project, examining user engagement with electric vehicle charging automation.

Switzerland: Julien L. Michellod joined the Annex in October 2020 as a Masters Student in Environmental Sciences at the University of Geneva, specializing in multidisciplinary energy studies. He holds a bachelor’s degree in the Engineering of Renewables Energies at the HES-SO in Switzerland, and has electron microscopy work experience at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne. He is currently writing his Masters Thesis about social license to automate demand-side management. Julien will be working with Dr. Selin Yilmaz who has led contributions to the Annex in Western Switzerland, while Dr. Christian Winzer (currently on parental leave) has led the contributions from University of Zuerich.

Austria: Regina Hemm joined the Annex in May 2020.  With a background in physics she is working at the Austrian Institute of Technology in the “Integrated Energy Systems” Unit, she works on projects developing flexibility in different electricity markets. She is part of the AIT team, working with Peter Froehlich,  Lisa Diamond and Tara Esterl, examining coordinating the Flex+ project: which offers integrates the control of pools of heat pumps, boilers, batteries and electric vehicles in electricity spot-and balancing markets. AIT are running field tests, where automated control is tested and prosumers give feedback on their experience. Ms Hemm’s work includes the mathematical modelling, simulation and optimization of the distributed energy resources.

Sweden: Associate Professor Cecilia Katzeff is leading engagement with Swedeish energy users in a joint project with distribution company, Ellevio. A/Prof Katzeff is a leading authority on sustainable transition design and human-computer interaction.

USA: Stay tuned!


AustraliaTask LeaderDr Declan Kuch
School of Humanities and Languages
University of New South Wales
Sydney, Australia
AustraliaTask LeaderDr Sophie Adams
School of Humanities and Languages
University of New South Wales
Sydney, Australia
AustraliaNational ExpertDr Declan Kuch
School of Humanities and Languages
University of New South Wales
Sydney, Australia
AustraliaNational ExpertDr Sophie Adams
School of Humanities and Languages
University of New South Wales
Sydney, Australia
NetherlandsNational ExpertZofia Lukszo
Deft Univeristy of Technology
Jaffalaan 5 2600 GA Delft The Netherlands
SwitzerlandNational ExpertChristian Winzer
Zurich University of Applied Science (ZHAW) Center for Energy and Environment
Bahnhofplatz 12 CH8400 Winterthur
SwitzerlandNational ExpertSelin Yilmaz
University of Geneva, Institute for Environmental Sciences (ISE) and Department F. -A. Forel for environmental and aquatic sciences (DEFSE) Faculty of Science
Uni Carl-Vogt CH1211 Genève 4


Events and Media


Seminar presentation – ANU Battery Grid Storage Integration Project Willing to Participate in VPP – user report 1 December 2020

Australian UsersTCP Social Science Workshop (Invitation Only), 3-4 December 2020.

Monash Energy Institute webinar on Participation (or not) in automated energy systems, 19 November 2020. Full session on Youtube here

Conference presentation, MoneyLabX Economythologies, 6 November, Canberra, Australia, ‘Thinking Energy As Money’

Conference panel, ‘Socialising the automation of flexible residential energy use’ at the Social Studies of Science Society/European Association for the Study of Science and Technology’ Virtual Conference, 18 August 2020. (See report in publications tab)

Conference presentation ‘Insights from the social sciences to understand the customer’s engagement with variable pricing and the prospects for the automation of demand’ at St Gallen Forum for Management of Renewable Energies, St Gallen, Switzerland, September 10-11, 2020

Conference presentation introducing the Annex at Symposium Energieinnovation, Graz, Austria,12-14 February 2020

UsersTCP Workshop at the Asia-Pacific Solar Research Conference, December 2019, Canberra, Australia. Citizens of which country claim to trust their energy providers most and why? What are the most successful business models for distributed energy provision? Dr Declan Kuch and A/Prof Iain MacGill address these questions and many more to introduce the newly relaunched User-Centred Energy Systems Technology Collaboration Programme (UsersTCP), outlining the Annexes Australia is involved with and leading. The mission of the UsersTCP is to provide evidence from socio-technical research on the design, social acceptance and usability of clean energy technologies to inform policy making for clean, efficient and secure energy transitions.

‘Homing in on the keys to DER integration’, PV Magazine Australia – Natalie Filatoff reports on the relaunch of the User-Centred Energy Systems Technology Collaboration Programme (UsersTCP) at the All Energy conference in Melbourne, Australia in October 2019, and the remit of the new Annex ‘Social Licence to Automate’.



Solar Analytics Australian research collaboration: VPP Solar + Battery report. November 2020

IEA UsersTCP Social License to Automate Template Data gathering template for Annex research

EASST/4S August 2020 session ‘Socialising the automation of flexible residential energy use’

A conference session report by Sophie Adams, University of New South Wales; Line Kryger Aargaard, Aalborg University; Ingvild Firman Fjellså, Norwegian University of Science and Technology; Ida Marie Henriksen, Norwegian University of Science and Technology; Declan Kuch, Western Sydney University; Sophie Nyborg, Technical University of Denmark; Marianne Ryghaug, Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Joint Social Science Researcher submission to Australia’s Technology Investment Roadmap paper

Joint submission to Australia’s ‘Technology Investment Roadmap’. Authors: Sophie Adams, University of New South Wales; Sangeetha Chandra-Shekeran, Melbourne University; Rebecca Colvin, Australian National University; Kari Dahlgren, Monash University; Adrian Ford, Melbourne University; Declan Kuch, Western Sydney University; University of New South Wales; Hedda Ransan-Cooper, Australian National University ; Yolande Strengers, Monash University; Hugo Temby, Australian National University; Phillipa Watson, University of Tasmania; Lee White, Australian National University

‘Towards a Social License to Automate Demand Side Management: Challenges, Perspectives and Regional Aspects’ paper

A Symposium Energieinnovation conference paper by Peter Fröhlich, Tara Esterl, Sophie Adams, Declan Kuch, Selin, Yilmaz, Cecilia Katzeff, Christian Winzer, Lisa Diamond, Johann Schrammel, Zofia Lukszo and Tony Fullelove

‘Towards a Social License to Automate Demand Side Management: Challenges, Perspectives and Regional Aspects’ presentation slides

A Symposium Energieinnovation conference presentation by Peter Fröhlich, Tara Esterl, Sophie Adams, Declan Kuch, Selin, Yilmaz, Cecilia Katzeff, Christian Winzer, Lisa Diamond, Johann Schrammel, Zofia Lukszo and Tony Fullelove

Social License Launch Event Summary

This document contains notes from the Social License to Automate Annex launch event held at UNSW in Sydney on 25 October 2019.

Social License Launch Event Slides

This document contains slides from the presentations at the Social License to Automate Annex launch event held at UNSW in Sydney on 25 October 2019.