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18 Jan 2013 01:01:22

District energy technology from ENER-G Switch2 shortlisted for Housing Innovation Award

G6 system from ENER-G Switch2 improves delivery of district energy and community heating in social housing
Pioneering technology from ENER-G Switch2 that helps to improve the delivery of district energy and community heating in social housing has been shortlisted for a Housing Innovation Award.

The new G6 system provides a fair and easy fuel payment system for residents, while cutting energy bills and energy consumption. It is a three-in-one data collection, energy monitoring and 'in-home display unit', and flexible heat payment system - designed, developed and manufactured by metering and billing specialist ENER-G Switch2.

The G6 was developed to meet a growing industry challenge and, in particular, a specific requirement by ALMO Kirklees Neighbourhood Housing (KNH) to deliver a borough-wide energy and cost saving project. This is aimed at helping residents whose water and heating are supplied by district heating to reduce fuel bills and carbon dioxide emissions.

The new G6 system, introduced to KNH in May 2012, provides a fair and accurate billing process for both pay-as-you-go and credit billing consumers. It incorporates an in-home display that allows customers to see, in graphical form, how much energy they are consuming, when they are using it, how much it is costing them and how much credit they have available.

This facility, which complies with the Code for Sustainable Homes ( giving developers one CSH credit per fuel), makes life easier for residents as it enables them to budget and to monitor as well as manage their energy usage, helping them to reduce consumption and costs.

The pioneering pay-as-you-go element works much like topping up a mobile phone, using smart wireless technology instead of a traditional token-based pre-payment system.

Because the1036 homes are spread across 28 individual schemes throughout the Kirklees borough, a traditional energy pre-payment scheme involving small numbers of residents purchasing 'credit' from local shops was not practical or viable. In addition, KNH was looking for more than a payment system; they wanted residents to be actively involved in managing their energy more efficiently - to help eradicate fuel poverty and decrease their carbon footprint.

Since the roll-out of the G6 technology began in May 2012, residents have reduced overall energy consumption by around 15%, but when winter consumption is factored in and residents become more familiar with the system, KNH estimates that the annual average consumption could be reduced by 30% or more.

ENER-G Switch2 remotely manages and monitors the G6 system from its customer service centre, enabling residents to flex between credit billing and pay-as-you go to suit their circumstances. Analysts continually monitor consumer data and can identify exceptional usage patterns or instances where residents frequently opt to disconnect their supply. This serves as an early warning signal that can assist scheme operators in targeting support towards vulnerable residents who may not be using the system effectively or efficiently.

ENER-G Switch2 has more than 30 years’ experience of metering and billing in social housing, including five previous generations of pre-payment devices. This included patented technology, which was adopted on license by the London underground for the old ticketing systems. The company has used this experience and expertise in the process of creating the G6 system technology.

Previously, customers connected to community heating systems could only purchase 'credit' from designated local point-of-sale-outlets, usually local shops, which caused inconvenience and potential stigma for customers and could lead to high infrastructure costs and financial risk for scheme operators. The G6 offers many ways to pay fuel bills or purchase 'credit', either by phone, direct debit, at a post office, on-line, smartphone app, or any Pay Point across the UK.

The G6 has a visual and audio notification system, including a text alert facility, to advise customers of low credit or to communicate other customer service and energy saving messages. Residents using the pay-as-you-go method benefit from an emergency credit and 'friendly disconnection' facility which prevents their supply being cut off at critical times such as evenings and weekends, or during harsh winter periods.

In addition to the innovative and more convenient pay-as-you-go system, the G6 differentiates itself from other billing products by combining a flexible credit billing system within the same product. This provides an entirely new level of customer payment choices. Whether customers normally pay for energy monthly or pay as they use it, everyone has the same system installed and pays the same fair fuel price. Because the G6 uses GPRS wireless technology, ENER-G Switch2 can switch customers between modes remotely without the need to gain access to the property.

The technology is not just for use with community energy and multi-fuel schemes, additional meters can be connected for potable water and electricity as it has 5 data inputs. G6 uses secure wireless GPRS transmission, which simplifies installation and makes the system suitable for both new builds and retrofits of any size, even at a micro scale.

The modular three-part design allows fast and simple installation by contractors and later installation of the 'smart' front unit by ES2 during equipment commissioning.

The G6 has been designed to be future-proof, giving best value for money over the lifetime of the product. The GPRS technology means that ENER-G Switch2 can send any necessary software upgrades to the unit without the need for a service visit.

The technology avoids the need to install Mbus or other hardwired data collection systems, which makes it ideal for schemes that are unmetered or where a fuel switch project (from electricity to gas /CHP or renewables) could be considered.

ENER-G Swithch2 can provide the G6 system, as well as any supporting metering equipment needed to manage community energy schemes effectively, without the requirement for up-front capital investment. Effectively the installation can be ‘free-issued’ and the equipment cost is recovered slowly over the useful lifetime of the products.

The G6 pay-as-you-go system provides a fair and accurate billing solution and at the same time, acts as a powerful tool to remove the risk of consumer debt on community energy schemes. ENER-G Switch2 have such confidence in the functionality and reliability of the G6, thanks to its wireless GPRS technology that allows remote management of the unit, that the company can now can confidently take on the consumer energy debt risk as part of a complete metering and billing service. ENER-G Switch2 can manage a scheme - whether it is new or existing, currently metered or un-metered, or where other providers’ equipment has been installed.

The G6 has achieved a step change in visible energy management and payment. It is attracting strong interest from the social housing sector, with installations underway at other community energy schemes in Manchester, Doncaster, Wakefield, London and Scotland.

It makes energy pay-as-you-go systems viable for the first time on small housing schemes, or on large dispersed estates, such as Kirklees and is simple to install in both retrofits and new build developments.

In addition to the G6 operation, ENER-G Switch2 generates approximately 20 million data transactions per year and over 12,000 energy bills per month. Approximately a third of bills come via equipment supplied by a third party. The company also provides operation and maintenance services to more than 50,000 dwellings across over 400 district and communal energy systems in the UK.

The Housing Innovation Awards will be announced at a ceremony in London on 13 February 2013.

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