Practices

Vulnerable consumer empowerment in a smart meter world

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SMART‐UP is a cross‐European research project funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 grant fund.

The overarching aim of SMART-UP project was to understand the impact that tailored energy advice can have on the active use of a smart meter and in‐home display to manage energy consumption in vulnerable households. It did so by developing a training program for installers, social workers and other frontline workers in contact with vulnerable consumers that would enable them to inform their service users about the benefits of smart metering and to advise them on how to get the most out of their smart meter and IHD. By evaluating the impact of subsequent advice delivery, the project aimed to gather feedback on the ways in which different methods of delivering advice might act to address the specific needs of vulnerable consumers, empower them to engage with their smart meter, and become more energy efficient.

 

This Publication reports the project activities and illustrates how, despite encountering significant difficulties in recruiting sufficient numbers of households, the households engaged by SMART‐UP were likely to be vulnerable to energy poverty, digital exclusion, and to require additional support in being able to use, understand and make the most of their smart meter and IHD.

 

The project was able to encourage participating households to engage in more (and more positive) energy efficient behaviors. However, it also made visible the complexities and tensions inherent in encouraging carbon reduction through energy savings within an already vulnerable population likely to be living in energy poverty. As a result, the project highlighted the need to combine behavior change advice alongside other measures (such as the provision of energy efficiency measures, income maximization advice and fuel debt alleviation). This would ensure energy poor households are able to meet their energy needs for comfort and warmth whilst carrying out positive energy saving behaviors that would not be detrimental to their health and wellbeing. Nevertheless, advice delivered through SMART‐UP was successful in enabling vulnerable households to understand and engage with their smart meter and IHD, increasing the range of purposes for which they used them, as well as the frequencies with which such tasks were carried out.

 

The positive impact of SMART‐UP advice on smart metering behaviors of households revealed that providing tailored and enhanced advice in a variety of formats can enable and empower vulnerable households to take control of their energy use.