The transition to energy-neutral neighbourhoods is enormously complex. Renewable sources, such as sun and wind, are not always available or sometimes produce much less. Space to install panels in the neighbourhood is limited. Choices have to be made: solar panels on the roof or solar collectors to generate heat? Is it permitted to install solar panels in public spaces, and if so, where precisely? Moreover, mistakes can easily be made during the transition, because you may be able to generate enough heat on an annual basis, but to what extent can you store it? And how can you prevent people from buying an expensive heat pump and then getting a hefty energy bill after all?
The great thing about a game is that you can start out very simply and then gradually build up the level of complexity. In the first round, players begin to install solar panels and slowly work towards heat solutions. Furthermore, games allow for ample experimentation. After all, energy transition often involves expensive and sometimes far-reaching measures, and it would be a great pity if the wrong decisions are made. By practising with the game, some mistakes can be avoided, because people better understand how the various elements are all interconnected. An hour into the game you will already know a lot more about the possibilities and impossibilities in energy transition.
With this online game, choices can immediately be visualised on a map. How much space is needed to supply a family with electricity from solar panels? And how much for the storage of electricity in, for instance, a neighbourhood battery?
What’s more, the effects of the choices are calculated directly. Financial expenditure and income are an important constraint on investment. The dashboard shows what the influence is on the amount of (grey) electricity needed in watts and of the additional external heat needed in gigajoules. And of course, it makes clear how much CO2 emissions will be saved, because that ultimately determines the winner.
Watts2win is based on a block of houses in a 1970s neighbourhood in the municipality of Dongen. The data are therefore also based on the energy actually used in a similar situation, even if the residents in the game are fictional. Prices and revenues of the sustainability options are based on real data too. As a result, the findings in the game can be used to determine a sustainability strategy for existing neighbourhoods. Of course, no guarantees can be given in terms of the game always being up to date.
The game was developed with the Comenius grant for educational innovation of the Nationaal Regieorgaan Onderwijsonderzoek (Netherlands Initiative for Education Research). That is why it is available as a free download for everyone. It can be downloaded in the Google Playstore or in the App Store. A Windows version can be found on the website: www.watts2win.nl. An extensive manual is also available there. The game is always played by 4 players or 4 player teams. The language of communication in the game is English.
Student quote: “Once in the game, it actually became more and more fun and interesting, I found the alternation of the seasons very interesting, because you don’t really ever think about how big the differences in use are between the various seasons.”
Lecturer quote: “I found it a wonderful learning experience: what is involved in energy transition? And also, it’s very concrete.”