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Low Carbon Ready

Energywise (also known as Vulnerable Customers and Energy Efficiency)

Energywise explored how network operators can work 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. The project undertook a research study with hundreds of social tenants in Tower Hamlets, and carried out two trials: Trial 1 focused on how they can participate in energy saving opportunities, and Trial 2 investigating both energy saving and Demand Side Response.

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.
To date there has been little direct research and operational attention directed at supporting vulnerable customers and the fuel poor. This group of customers can benefit considerably from the low carbon transition but have the least ability to access low carbon technologies. The project will support this group and allow them to fully participate in energy saving and DSR opportunities as well as supporting DNO management of network reinforcement using flexible alternatives.

Trial 1 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, a ‘standby saver’ and an energy efficiency advice leaflet).
Trial 2 encouraged participants to shift their electricity use at certain times through Time of Use tariffs/ rebates. Prepayment customers were offered Bonus Time, a dynamic, non-punitive, Critical Peak Rebate tariff, one of the first of its kind tested in the UK. Customers were credited 10 units back for every unit of energy they saved during Bonus Time periods that were notified to participants via text message the day before. Credit customers were offered HomeEnergy FreeTime, a static, non-punitive Time of Use tariff. Customers could choose to receive free electricity on either Saturdays or Sundays between 9-5pm.

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.

Energywise has taught us:

  • Partnering with highly respected and trusted local community organisations was very effective in ensuring inclusive recruitment.
  • There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach so the engagement should be carefully designed according to the needs of the community involved.
  • It is important to make sure that customers understand the offer and how they can benefit from it.

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