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Energywise (also known as Vulnerable Customers and Energy Efficiency)

The award-wining Energywise project explored how DNOs can work collaboratively with energy suppliers and local trusted organisations to deliver appropriate services to communities of low income households who may be struggling with their energy bills.

Project-on-a-Page summary

Project data

Start date: 02/01/2014
End date: 30/09/2018
Budget: £5.49m (£3.32m LCNF)

Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) are forecasting increasing and more uncertain demands on their networks as the result of the electrification of heat and transport and the increased reliance on micro and distributed generation. Enabling and encouraging customers to change their pattern of demand and participate in DSR and other energy saving activities will help to mitigate this substantial challenge.

The project has undertaken a research study with hundreds of social tenants in Tower Hamlets (East London) and carried out two trials. Trial one has found how they can participate in energy saving opportunities, and trial two investigated both energy saving and demand side response. The project aimed to understand:

  • The extent to which the residential customer group is able and willing to engage in energy saving campaigns and Time of Use (ToU) tariffs
  • The benefits that tenants can realise from their change of behaviour in household energy management The challenges and successful approaches to engaging with these groups of customers to achieve these aims
  • Whether their reduction in demand, and shifting demand away from network peak periods may benefit the electricity network by deferring or avoiding network

Trial one involved the installation of smart meters in participants’ homes, as well as the provision of energy efficiency devices and advice (LED lightbulbs, an eco-kettle and a ‘standby saver’).

The project designed an engagement strategy tailored to the specific needs of the target population and the demographics of the area, with a dedicated customer field officer team established with local understanding and language skills;

  • 538 social housing tenants in Tower Hamlets living in less efficient properties were successfully recruited resulting in a 40% sign-up rate
  • 86% of all active participants consented to new ToU tariff arrangements: Bonus Time for prepay customers and Home Energy Free Time for credit customers

Energywise was the first time that a Critical Peak Rebate was trialled with pre-payment customers in the UK. The tariff rewarded customers for reducing their demand during certain times of the day without penalising them if they chose not. It was also the first time that an energy supplier and a network operator worked together with a trusted third party – in this case a local charity – to engage with fuel poor and traditionally hard to reach customers.

Overall trial one achieved a 5.2% reduction in average evening peak demand per participating household. Trial two encouraged participants to shift their electricity use at certain times through Time of Use and Critical Peak tariffs/rebates. The Time of Use Tariff, called HomeEnergy FreeTime, led to a 2.2% reduction in evening peak, while the Critical Peak Rebate, called Bonus Time, led to a 1.5% reduction in evening peak demand. Throughout EnergyWise, the top 10% of households achieved average demand reductions of 18.7%.

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