This major housing association needed a unified smart solution to simplify their complex energy portfolio. Learn how installing AMR smart meters is transforming their approach to energy management.
Together Housing is one of Northern England’s largest housing associations. Formed by the merger of five separate landlords, the association has a complex portfolio of properties with equally complex energy needs. Their reliance on estimated billing was affecting the accuracy of their forecasting. And they needed a single source of data to simplify their energy management.
Company HQ: Halifax, West Yorkshire
Total homes: Over 36,000
The challenge: The company was finding it difficult to get readings from the electricity meters for the communal areas of their managed properties.
The solution: A managed rollout of AMR smart meters, to provide regular meter readings and accurate billing.
Together Housing has around 1,200 electricity meters for the communal areas of their housing stock. Nearly all of them are located in locked meter cupboards within locked premises. So if a meter needs to be read, a key holder must be found. And then they have to find the key.
These access issues meant most of their bills had been estimated for years. And in the absence of a single, unified system, the association found it hard to understand its energy use.
When Together Housing had previously looked at smart meters, the costs were prohibitive. So when the government’s smart meter initiative removed the cost implications, they were keen to find a smart solution.
Together Housing chose to install Automated Meter Reading (AMR) smart meters. AMRs spell the end of estimated billing by providing accurate meter readings remotely. They also give Together Housing near real-time access to their energy consumption data.
And the key to understanding all this information is SSE Clarity – our free online energy management platform. SSE Clarity acts as a unified source of data for the association’s energy team. It presents the data from the AMRs in a suite of useful reports, making it easy to create accurate forecasts.
We assigned a project manager to coordinate the work between the four key stakeholders: the association; their energy broker Cost Advice Services Limited; our installation partner Energy Assets; and ourselves. The key to its success has been communication between all parties. Each month, we host conference calls so all parties can share key learnings and report on their progress.
Patrick Berry is the Managing Director of Together Housing. He says: “The installation programme has been quicker than we’d anticipated. We’re very happy with it so far.”
At the start of the project, there were concerns around gaining access to the meters. To get around this, Together Housing assigned a dedicated staff member to accompany the engineers to make sure they could always get on site. By visiting properties on a postcode-by-postcode basis, starting in those with the greatest concentration of sites, they’ve upgraded nearly 1,000 meters in 10 months.
Installations in some of Together Housing’s premises must be handled with special care, to ensure minimal disruption to vulnerable residents in care homes and sheltered housing.
Even with such considerations, Patrick says he’s confident the project will be completed quickly, sensitively, and within the scoped timeframe.
Patrick’s colleagues in the energy team are finally getting access to near real-time data. SSE Energy Solutions also organised a one-day training workshop to help them get the most out of SSE Clarity.
One of the big benefits of SSE Clarity is being able to drill down into the usage of specific sites to compare the energy use of like-for-like properties. They simply couldn’t do this before. So if two similar blocks of sheltered housing have wildly different usage data, they can investigate.
Whether there’s a problem with the fabric of the building (poor insulation, for example) or there’s a behavioural issue (setting thermostats too high) it can be rectified quickly. This way, site managers can understand their data use and become accountable for it. The management team can also use this data for training.
The association is working to lower its carbon emissions, and SSE Clarity makes it easy to keep track of their progress. In addition to the government’s net-zero carbon targets for 2050, Patrick says public sector organisations will soon be subject to further emission standards which will also require in-depth reporting.
Patrick believes their AMRs will continue to transform the way Together Housing operates. Part of their reason for choosing us was our commitment to building a strategic relationship around the UK’s smart grid. By using the smart grid and the Internet of Things (IoT), the potential benefits of digitising asset management are huge.
Their new AMRs will also be an integral part of their Together Energy Solar Battery Project. A trial is under way to install solar and battery systems on 250 of the association’s properties. Battery systems store any unused solar power to be used whenever it’s needed. Patrick says: “We estimate that in a year a typical house would save around £300 and prevent the emission of 845 kilos of carbon dioxide.”
With their AMR smart meter rollout nearly complete, Together Housing are ready for a new smart future. The big question is: are you? Find out more about our smart metering options for your business.