Jan 2014
Electricity Distribution
Vulnerable Customers and Energy Efficiency
Jan 2014
Dec 2017
UK Power Networks
UKPN Innovation Team
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LCN Fund Tier 2
LV & 11kV Networks
The government’s Low Carbon Transition Plan necessarily has an impact on customers’ energy bills. Those with the potential to be hardest hit include the 4.5 million fuel poor in the UK (2011, DECC), of which a significant number are also vulnerable in some way.

Separately, the 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-generation and distributed generation (DG). The more customers that participate in providing time-shifting or Demand Side Response (DSR) and the more customers that can achieve sustained energy savings, the more it will help to mitigate this substantial challenge.

VCEE reflects UK Power Networks’ desire to support these customer groups and allow them to fully participate in DSR and energy saving opportunities, reducing their own bills, accessing offers, and playing a small but socially important role in supporting the network. It will provide DNOs with evidence-based learning on the extent that fuel poor can engage in such activities and consequently how their move and reduction in demand benefits the network by deferring or avoiding network reinforcement.

VCEE will run in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets; which has a high penetration of fuel poor customers, social housing and tower blocks. We will conduct two trials: demand reduction and demand shifting, by providing 550 households in 2 groups with a smart meter, simple energy saving and energy shifting devices, energy advice and Time-of-Use tariffs. The trials will research the effectiveness of techniques and capture learning on the:

  • Level of response from fuel poor to smart meter data & price signals

  • Energy cost savings achieved from customer interaction and network benefits

  • Improved demand profiling for these customers

  • What engagement material & channels were effective in supporting their behaviour.

In future, these activities will largely be replicated through existing supplier obligations. The additional activities for the DNO are relatively low cost, providing a positive cost-benefit for DNO customers overall and significant benefits to the communities affected. The project has attracted substantial external funding.

The overarching aim of this project is to understand the requirements of the fuel poor (which have a significant overlap with those who are vulnerable) and explore the means to encourage their increased participation in energy efficiency and in Time-of-Use (ToU) tariffs. This in turn will have the effect of suppressing network loads and shifting their energy usage away from peak demand periods.

The project’s six core objectives are to research and build evidence-based learning on:

  • How to identify and use existing trusted social resources to effectively engage fuel poor customers in the adoption and use of smart metering technologies;

  • The amount of energy savings (in energy and monetary terms) arising from a set of intervention measures tailored to the specific resources and needs of the trial area community;

  • The amount of energy shifting arising from a package of intervention measures tailored to the specific resources and needs of the trial area community

  • The impact on network reinforcement from reduction or shift in energy consumption

  • Improved demand profiling for these customers

  • What engagement material and communications channels were effective in reinforcing and supporting their behaviour.