[UX-Conf Belgium Edition] Harnessing UX to Power Sustainability: Insights from Elia

This article follows the keynote by Michael Dufranne, Senior UX Researcher and Team Lead at Elia, entitled “Can UX save the planet ?”. It took place in Brussels on April 11, 2024, during the third edition of UX-Conf – Human First.

In a world where sustainability is increasingly paramount, industries are turning to innovative solutions to navigate the complexities of our energy systems. Recently, Michael Dufranne, Senior UX researcher and team lead at Elia, Belgium’s electricity transmission system operator, participated in the UX-Conf Belgium as keynote speaker. During his presentation, Michael shed light on how user experience (UX) principles can play a pivotal role in not just improving services, but also in driving the transition towards a more sustainable future. Elia’s keynote highlighted the transformative power of UX in addressing the challenges faced by energy providers and consumers alike.


Understanding Elia

Before delving into the role of UX, it’s essential to grasp Elia’s position in the energy landscape. As a transmission system operator, Elia facilitates the seamless flow of electricity between various stakeholders – companies, distribution system operators, producers, and consumers. This entails providing them with the necessary tools and infrastructure to ensure a stable and efficient grid, especially during challenging scenarios like low wind or solar energy production.


The UX Imperative

Elia’s journey into prioritizing UX began with a recognition of the need for customer-centricity in a rapidly evolving market. With the support of forward-thinking individuals within the organization, Elia embarked on a mission to enhance its customer portal, realizing that an intuitive user interface could empower users and streamline operations.


Empowering Consumers

A key revelation in Elia’s UX journey was the paradigm shift towards empowering consumers to become actors in the electricity market. By flipping the script on traditional centralized systems, Elia aimed to create a more dynamic, user-driven approach to energy production and consumption. However, this shift came with its own set of challenges, including the need to navigate complex regulatory frameworks and address user concerns regarding revenue generation and taxation.


The UX Solution

Elia’s UX team tackled these challenges head-on, employing a comprehensive UX approach that encompassed everything from product canvases to user personas. Central to their strategy was the creation of real-time price signals, enabling users to make informed decisions about energy consumption and production. This initiative culminated in a three-day hackathon, where innovative solutions were devised to enhance user experience and promote sustainability.


Scaling Up UX

What began as a modest initiative with just two individuals dedicated to UX has blossomed into a full-fledged UX team comprising over thirty professionals. Elia’s commitment to UX extends beyond mere lip service, with a structured roadmap in place to integrate UX principles into every aspect of the organization. This includes the establishment of a UX chapter and the integration of UX designers into product teams, ensuring that user-centricity remains at the forefront of Elia’s operations.



Elia’s keynote underscores the transformative potential of UX in driving sustainability and innovation in the energy sector. By embracing a user-centric mindset and leveraging UX principles, organizations like Elia can not only enhance their services but also catalyse meaningful change towards a more sustainable future. As we navigate the challenges of climate change and energy transition, the lessons from Elia’s journey serve as a beacon of hope, illustrating the power of design thinking in shaping a brighter tomorrow.


Find the article in french here !




Théo Blondel, Business Manager at UX-Republic