Smart technologies prove a key weapon in the fight against fuel poverty and exclusion

Published on Thursday, 27 October 2011 14:50
Posted by Scott Buckler

Smart home energy management and income maximisation services such as debt, tax and benefits advice can help vulnerable households to make financial savings that can run into the thousands, according to a report on SHIMMER, a London fuel poverty pilot by a consortium of partners and funded by the Technology Strategy Board


The pilot, involving the Energy Saving Trust, London Rebuilding Society and HomeZone, also highlights a big opportunity for the social housing sector to bring useful services to their tenants in a more engaging way.

Taking advantage of Feed-in-Tariff SHIMMER provides households with solar PV and a smart system which provides real-time, monetised information on energy consumption and delivers tailored advice and financial incentives to encourage householders to reduce carbon emissions and energy bills.

It is accessed via an online platform, which integrates smart energy management with innovative household finance applications such as a household budgeting tool, benefits and entitlements checker, saving facility and utility switch service.

Indicative results show that the bundle of services delivered by SHIMMER is saving participants between £200 and £3500 a year.

Philip Sellwood, chief executive of the Energy Saving Trust, said:

Ultimately, we need to have smart homes, not just smart meters. What this pilot found is that solar PV alone is not sufficient to achieve behavioural change in fuel poor households. SHIMMER ensures savings are optimised by smart use of appliances based on the simple, actionable feedback made possible by the data that’s collected.

“The full package of financial advice that people could access was absolutely central in compounding the energy savings they made – and we’ve also seen that smart home energy management can be a catalyst for greater digital inclusion.”

The pilot took place in the London boroughs of Newham, Hackney, Waltham Forest, Redbridge and Havering, and the majority of the 18 participants in were in some form of arrears and the remainder had little or no disposal income. The savings generated have, in one case, nearly doubled household income.

SHIMMER has already provided access to new services for participants, and 65% said they would use financial savings to invest in energy efficiency measures and home improvements. Everyone who took part said they would invest any savings in a service or product which would compound their savings in the long run.

Digitally excluded participants have also been encouraged to engage more with the web. For example, a disabled participant who previously did not use the internet, now not only logs onto SHIMMER but also uses Skype to contact relatives in Cyprus.

The technology was also made use of in ways not originally envisaged. For example, some people utilised the ability to measure appliance energy usage to monitor the energy used by teenagers in the house.

Naomi Kingsley, CEO of London Rebuilding Society, said:

“This was a successful London trial, but we see great potential across the UK. In the long run SHIMMER could become a financial cooperative such as a credit union, which pools the savings users are making to increase their access to credit. It could also become an energy services co-operative.

“We have established a clear and proven business case and plan for installing solar PV and the SHIMMER system at scale.”

SHIMMER is generating substantial interest from Registered Landlords and Local Authorities. SHIMMER will help them to fulfil their statutory duties to fuel poor/vulnerable households, meet reporting and monitoring requirements on carbon usage, and will help their tenants increase income and so minimize the likelihood of debt and rent arrears.

Negotiations are underway to use SHIMMER to develop and roll out an early intervention alert service for vulnerable people, an IncomeMax debt management service has been developed which will be delivered via the SHIMMER system, and negotiations have begun with a consortium of London Boroughs to roll out SHIMMER across areas of their social housing stock.

Source: EST

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