Auto-consumption and energy self-sufficiency – now within reach for social housing

Solar power provides an opportunity for social housing associations and landlords to improve the long term energy prospects of tenants by alleviating fuel poverty and greatly reducing their carbon emissions. And, whatever the outcome of 2015’s general election and the new government’s energy and carbon policies, the benefits of reduced electricity bills for tenants offered by renewable energy will only increase as  prices increase.

However, there are other measures that photovoltaic (PV) installation owners and their tenants can put in place to achieve greater benefits. Mark Elliott, director of energy monitoring specialist Energeno, explains how auto-consumption and monitoring technology hold the key to unleashing PV’s full potential and how its own range of equipment can help landlords and tenants alike combat fuel poverty.

Providing heating and hot water through renewably generated power and home automation is not just for the “home owning” cash rich, retiree, but is also a financially prudent and positive choice within the rented sector. We also know that the full benefits of renewable energy can only be achieved if they are supported by efforts to encourage people to be energy efficient.

Landlords and tenants alike need to gain a true insight into energy use in their buildings, to give them the means to reduce their own heating and electricity bills – a key goal shared in social housing renewable energy strategies and something we incorporate into all our heating and energy monitoring technology offerings.”

Heating and hot water from Solar PV

Heating and hot water are key expenditures for social tenants and ones that can lead to rent arrears, non-payment and ultimately a court summons and eviction. Relief is at hand, with hot water provision being a simple addition to the of Solar PV installation. Systems such as Energeno’s Optimmersion convert free surplus electricity into hot water. Optimmersion is installed between the immersion tank and the consumer unit and supplies variable power for hot water, depending upon the excess energy being generated.

Typical annual savings for Optimmersion users are around £125 with larger savings being achieved for higher cost oil and biomass systems. Because the PV generated electricity is cost-free due to the FiT mechanism, tenants immediately save money money on hot water bills.The installation of these types of products means that the benefits of Solar PV are delivered directly to the tenant without the need for tenant action.

But the benefits of Solar PV are not limited to properties with an existing immersion tank, surplus power can supplement existing wet heating and hot water systems by pre-heating the water supply, and for electrically heated properties by feeding existing storage heaters formerly using Economy 7, Economy 10 or other off-peak electrical tariffs.

New Heat Storage technology is also being used in some pilot projects around the country.  Heat stores, as the name suggests, store low cost and renewably generated energy as heat, and release the heat later when it is required, either as hot water or as room heating. The energy that is stored can be provided from a combination of sources such as Solar PV, air source heat pumps optimised by  Optimmersion. Energeno work with all of the UK’s Heat Storage companies.

The benefits of energy monitoring – introducing Wattson Solar Plus 

Even in properties which have new, low cost, efficient heating systems, the benefits of free electricity can be shared by Social Housing Landlords, as long as tenants are aware of when and how much electrical power is available. In-home displays have long told users how much power is being consumed within a property, but houses with Solar PV require a different sort of monitor, one that compares energy use with energy generation, and showing them when electricity is free.  The Wattson Solar Plus  literally gives PV users the green light to use free electricity. Connected to an installation, it fits on a shelf or even next to the TV, and shows in real time, how much electricity is being generated by an installation, how much energy is being used around the house and the carbon emissions being produced by that energy use.

When surplus power is available, Wattson glows green to tell people that they can use free electricity or sell it back to the Grid. Giving tenants transparency in this way enables them to avoid using high energy consuming items, such as washing machines, when it’s most costly to do soand choose a time when it’s free.  Not only does this aid with the ever present issue of fuel poverty facing many tenants by helping to reduce their electricity consumption by up to 60 per cent, but it can also increase the profitability of an installation for the property owner.

Mike Harrison, Director of Technical Services for Poole Housing Partnership (PHP), says “Wattson Solar Plus for Social Housing allows tenants to see when they can use free electricity which is vital for people to needing to save on their bills.  We have slotted Wattson in our Your Solar Power campaign and tenants love the changing colour display which is understood by all the family, including the little ones”

“By educating tenants about their solar electricity, Wattson has boosted our FiT income as PV systems are restarted”  Some residents believed their PV systems were actually costing them money as they did not see the bill reductions they expected, so they turned them off.  Poole Housing Partnership have installed Wattson Solar Plus for Social Housing in these housholds to make it easy for tenants to see when the PV system was giving them free electricity, and how much.  Now, tenants can clearly see the benefits of their system and so it stays on, helping reduce their bills as well as boosting PHP’s FiT revenues.

Building on behavioural change with Energeno’s auto-consumption tools

“We’ve demonstrated how our products can change people’s attitudes towards energy use, however, we wanted to bring something else to the market that would assist users in their mission to become completely energy efficient and reduce their outgoings.

“Using ‘free electricity’ becomes easy with monitoring technology, and many of our users have become experts. However this is only the case if you’re at home at the same time the energy is generated. Our latest innovation is Optiwash, a smart socket that listens to the Wattson system and learns how much power appliances use around a building. It then automatically diverts enough energy to power an appliance, when there is free energy available.”

“We’re seeing more and more renewable installations fitted as standard on new housing. However, we know that the biggest driver for installations is the financial benefits. When landlords invest in solar PV, they’re freeing tenants from utility companies, enabling them to secure their own energy use, and in some cases, lifting them out of fuel poverty.

“But when they combine this with the right monitoring technology and smart metering, the results can be far greater than they’d hoped.”

To find out more about Energeno’s range of products visit www.energeno.com

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