The overarching aim of SMART-UP is to encourage the active use of Smart Meters and In-House Displays by vulnerable customers in those Member States where the roll-out of Smart Meters has been embarked upon. Previous studies have shown that Smart Meters do not lead to energy savings in the residential sector unless households actively use them and are encouraged to modify their everyday practices. Our project intends to fill this gap, while also raising awareness on demand response services.
The way we intend to do so is by developing a training program for installers, social workers and other frontline staff in contact with vulnerable people, so that they can inform vulnerable consumers about the benefits brought about by smart metering and advise them on how to use their Smart Meter and In Home Display (IHD) units (where fitted) to best effect each time they are in contact with them.
Indeed, most vulnerable and low-income householders require one-to-one and on-going support. However, there is no common definition of vulnerable people in Europe, and the project will address various target groups suffering from fuel poverty phenomenon living in different types of households.
The final aims of the SMART-UP project are:
To increase the active and effective use of smart meters and in-home displays (where fitted) by vulnerable consumers
To encourage vulnerable consumers to change their energy-related behaviours in response to improved feedback information
Enable vulnerable consumers to make significant energy savings, reduce their fuel bills and seize further opportunities that may be offered by demand-response services (time-varying tariffs, direct load control)
The training packages will be tested and improved before getting disseminated towards the major actors involved in smart meters deployment (DSOs, energy utilities, installers…). From 50 to 100 installers or other frontline staff will be trained in each project partner’s country. Each of them will deliver face-to-face advise to 10 to 20 households, so as to reach 1,000 households in each country. Support Service organisations and energy utilities (depending on the national context) will be involved to provide the necessary support for this experiment and to ensure further dissemination of the training packages.
Besides empowering vulnerable consumers, the project will serve to get some feedback on their specific needs and on the ways to appropriately communicate with them and help them take profit of smart metering. The project will also help consolidate data on how much energy can be saved if vulnerable householders are empowered to make best use of the opportunities that Smart Metering offers.
The specific barriers are:
- Consumers do not dispose of clear / easy to read and understand information on smart meters, vulnerable consumers are desperately in need of specifically energy advice relevant to them and general info on energy consumption and smart meters
- Consumers in general, and even more vulnerable consumers, have not understood that their energy bill is related to their energy consumption and is not a fixed tax to be paid
- Consumers are not familiar with smart meters in general and do not see it as a tool which may help them monitor their energy consumption and even reduce their energy bill
- Consumers in general find difficult to know how much are they consuming, how much will they have to pay in the next bill or how much you can reduce for example, changing your fridge. For vulnerable consumers it is exacerbated. This is one of the main barriers to overcome with this project.
- These aims will be achieved by training smart meter installers, social workers and other frontline staff that have contact with vulnerable consumers, so they can advise them on how to use a smart meter and in-home display (IHD) to the best effect. Consequently, the tangible objectives of this project are as follows:
- Existing training packages will be adapted to the different national contexts (French, English, Spanish, and Italian): one for training smart meter installers, and another for frontline staff in contact with vulnerable consumers. Guidelines on how to fit the training packages to other Member States’ contexts will be developed
- Installers and/or other frontline staff will be trained in each partner’s country (between 30 and 60) to enable them to deliver enhanced support and advice to 1,000 vulnerable consumers during the course of the project (5,000 households advised in total); these households will be empowered to use their smart meter effectively (with an IHD or an energy monitoring tool where no IHD is provided)
- Vulnerable consumers3 will be encouraged to take action by changing energy-related behaviours and consumption habits in order to achieve an average of 10% energy saving
- Installers and frontline staff will signpost vulnerable consumers to available grants and assistance they can access additional support to repair or replace heating systems and inefficient appliances where appropriate
- Different types of interventions4 will be trialled at a small-scale, among 60 to 65 households in each country; these trials will involve testing some IHDs in the countries where they are not currently included in the smart meter roll-out (France, Spain, Italy) and some advanced training/ advice, integrating follow-up calls and an aftercare service in their protocol
- Key stakeholders in each partners’ country will be involved (energy suppliers, DSOs, installers, local authorities, housing associations, social worker associations/organisations) to ensure further dissemination of the training packages.
A report will be produced detailing the assessment of the qualitative and quantitative impacts of the support delivered to participating vulnerable households, in terms of:
Energy savings and fuel bill reduction
Improved indoor comfort
Changes made in everyday practices (consumer habits), reasons for these changes and sustainability of these changes
Changes in their energy consumption behaviour
Perceptions of smart metering and the associated energy services (follow-up, aftercare services and demand response services that may be offered)