Background: Citizen Energy Communities, particularly local energy markets, have been discussed for several years as a concept that allows private households, prosumers, and small local generation facilities to be actively integrated into the existing energy system. According to the literature, it promotes investment incentives and introduces local price signals, to which the participants respond with behavioral changes. However, there is a lack of long-term, real-world data, and insights on participants’ behavior in such communities, which is crucial to assess their overall performance and functionality. We fill this research gap by analyzing user behavior based on a one-year pilot project’s recorded data and expert interviews with its participants.
Results: In three analyses, we observe that participants are initially willing to pay a premium price above the grid tariff for local green power, but this willingness decreases in the long run, affecting investment incentives. In contrast to assumptions in the literature, participants show decreasing activity over time and do not respond to specific information nudges. However, regular reminders and reports are perceived as valuable by the participants and support their integration into the community. Also, we cannot confirm behavioral consumption changes in response to different price signals.
Conclusion: Our results show that the active integration of participants is more challenging than hitherto assumed, and both market mechanism complexity and the need for automation play a central role in a successful design.