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Vulnerable consumer empowerment in a smart meter world

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - SMART-UP (Vulnerable consumer empowerment in a smart meter world)

Reporting period: 2016-09-01 to 2018-07-31

The SMART-UP project had several main objectives:
• Recruiting people who are able to meet vulnerable households and provide them with advice. 23 companies were engaged.
• Train installers/social workers to allow them to visit vulnerable households and provide advice to better use their smart meter to track their energy consumption and reduce their energy costs. 557 frontline staff were trained during the 46 training sessions organized in all countries.
• Advise 5000 households to better use their smart meters and better control their energy consumption.The project has actually provided advice to 4,463 households, which represent about 13,000 consumers.
• Engaging 300 households in the small-scale pilot to test from groups (5 in general) differentiated accompaniments (Provision of IHD, use of energy diary, telephone calls, personalized advice, SAV, etc.).322 households were ultimately able to take advantage of advanced advice t.
• Evaluate the energy savings generated by the councils, by analyzing the consumptions before the first visit and after a period of 10 – 12 months after the visit and the implementation of the project on a small scale.
• Disseminate the results of the project during a conference and through various publications and initiatives.
• 3,500 stakeholders had the opportunity to learn about the project through attending 33 events where SMART-UP presentations featured.
• Press / media / social media summary – Approximate reach of 100,000 through press releases, Twitter and Facebook
WP1:Six consortium meetings have been organised
• Participation of two project coordinator meetings in Brussels
• Participation of a meeting in Brussels on the request of Project officer
WP2:Each member of the SMART-UP consortium engaged stakeholders who already had established relationships with vulnerable energy consumers and were willing to assist with recruiting these consumers to the project.
• Agreements with 23 stakeholder organisations have been signed in the different Countries.
WP3:The paper monitoring tool has been designed and tested with stakeholders.
WP4:Training packages were developed and delivered by the SMART-UP consortium
• 530 stakeholders have been trained (46 training sessions)
WP5:Frontline workers recruited vulnerable consumers to the project, gained their informed consent, provided face-to-face energy advice, and completed a questionnaire to capture baseline data on energy use.
• 4,463 vulnerable households answered first questionnaire and provided with energy advice, benefiting an estimated 13,000 consumers in total
• 322 vulnerable households provided with additional enhanced advice
• Some households also received additional support, intervention and monitoring as part of a more in-depth small-scale pilot. Qualitative, semi-structured interviews were held with stakeholders and some householders.
• 991 vulnerable households answered the second questionnaire
• 80% of participants acted to reduce the amount of energy that they use, and 65% were using their In-Home Display or similar app more often
WP6:The SMART-UP consortium collected baseline data and issued a follow-up questionnaire 6-12 months following the initial advice visit to assess the impact of the advice.
• Quantitative and qualitative data was collected and analysed, to understand impacts, insights and lessons learned.
WP7:The implementation of the dissemination plan was designed to disseminate the results by different means (conference, video, website, social media, press releases, articles promoting SMART-UP, newsletters per country (15 in total), Promotion / presentation of SMART-UP at 10 other events, Final conference has been organised in Brussels during EUSEW
1. Engaging with vulnerable consumers
• Data matching between agencies would help with targeting. For example, helping to identify those on low incomes with high energy usage.
• Focusing activity on a particular community, building or other defined group/area can help increase engagement through a feeling of collective action.
• Incorporating recruitment into wider outreach activities could also be successful, such as workshops on energy-related issues. Door-to-door recruitment could work when conducted by agencies that are already known and trusted, but is unlikely to be successful where there is no prior relationship.
• Greater collaboration between various actors/ stakeholders is also necessary to identify and assist vulnerable consumers.

2. Delivering Advice
• Ensure that advice is delivered as close to the date on which a smart meter is installed in a household as possible.
• Provide more holistic interventions that give guidance on areas such as switching suppliers / tariffs / payment methods.
• Present advice in additional ways (such as via digital or online video content) in order to ensure the maximum number of households can be engaged by an intervention.

3.Engaging with stakeholders
• The wider impacts of energy poverty and the benefits of tackling it need to be recognised and addressed by policy makers and other key decision-makers.
• Frontline workers need to be supported by managers to tackle energy poverty issues among client groups and provided with the skills, knowledge and resources to do so.
• NGOs, advocacy groups and other organisations can also play a key role in facilitating action, particularly when projects are designed to integrate with other national and local priorities.

4.The role of smart meters
• All consumers need to be provided with the means to understand their energy use and in turn change their behaviour (where this is not at the detriment of comfort and wellbeing). This information needs to be available in different formats and should not rely on Wi-Fi connection. For vulnerable consumers in particular, this needs to be supplemented with additional advice and support.
• Frontline workers also need to be able to understand and explain these devices, and this should be incorporated into any future training.

5. Impact on energy poverty
• The complexity and rigidity of the regulations and existing policies, accompanied by the number of different services available to help consumers constitute a huge and complex web of information which can be difficult to navigate. Frontline workers can help bridge this information overload and assist energy-poor households to make small changes to their billing and consumption habits without leading to suppressed demand.
• Specific training initiatives for frontline workers or installers like SMART-UP are useful and can help make a difference, especially with regards to identifying obvious irregularities with consumption and billing, and with enabling them to propose more appropriate tariffs as well as adopt more energy efficient practices. Training can provide the basic knowledge needed in order to identify and tackle causes of vulnerability of the households they work with.
• Although low-income households can benefit from improving energy efficiency in their daily routines, in most cases energy use is already down to the bare minimum, and similar attention needs to be given towards ensuring that these households also maintain adequate thermal comfort, and don’t engage in further “suppressed demand”. Here, the focus of frontline workers’ efforts needs to be on providing advice on understanding bills, dealing with energy debt and accessing other services.