The current 'opt out' of regulations requiring district heating suppliers to fit final customer meters to unmetered properties is bad news for residents, who could be missing out on cost savings of 35 to 50%, says community heating specialist Switch2 Energy.
The Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations make it compulsory to install final customer meters on new builds and most buildings undergoing major renovation. But for existing unmetered properties there is currently a grace period while The Department of Business Energy Industrial Strategy (BEIS) reviews and reintroduces a feasibility tool to indicate the viability of retrofitting meters to existing district heating schemes.
This delay is, however, denying social housing residents and other customers of unmetered properties from benefitting from the cost savings of smart metering, according to Switch2's Head of R&D, Ian Allan.
Allan explains: "In our experience, when smart metering is introduced to unmetered heat networks with fixed cost tariffs, customers can save from 35 to 50% on their heating bills. Switch2's smart metering partnership with Sheffield City Council is dramatically reducing energy consumption across 6,000 homes connected to its heat network. The first 227 homes using the heat meters saved an average £238 each over the first year and it's predicted that the total annual saving for customers will be £1.4 million.
"Smart meters show customers how they are using energy and paying for and encourage energy reduction, so this is very good for the environment too. For example, more than 750 homes connected to Newport City Homes' Duffryn district heating scheme have halved their energy consumption since introducing Switch2's pay-as-you-go smart meters, resulting in a saving of around 2032 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. Previously, residents paid a fixed weekly charge for their heating and hot water, but now they have control over their usage and costs, which allows them to budget better and save money."
He continued: " We await the introduction of the new feasibility tool in the coming months and hope that more district and community heating suppliers will choose to adopt smart metering strategies, especially to help vulnerable customers living in social housing, and also to reduce the carbon footprint of their heat networks."