Living Lab: Bristol Energy heat plan trial

Introduction

Decarbonising heat is the biggest challenge the UK faces in terms of transforming the energy system to meet carbon reduction targets and achieve our clean growth ambitions.

Energy Systems Catapult is testing consumer-focused ‘smart energy services’ (i.e. tailored service propositions enabled by digital controls and sensors) in a ‘Living Lab’ of 100 real-world homes.

And Bristol Energy has become the first energy supplier in the UK to trial selling ‘heat as a service’, rather than kilowatt hours, tailored to consumers individual home and lifestyle.

The Challenge and Opportunity

Many energy consumers find it hard to control how much they spend on their heating to get comfortable. While two thirds of UK households suffer from damp, drafts or even overheating in the middle of winter.

How we heat our homes and buildings responsible for around 20% of UK carbon emissions and only around 4% of the UK’s 27 million households have low carbon heating.

Energy Systems Catapult have been running detailed trials over the past two years with residents in a ‘Living Lab’ of 100 homes spread across the UK, exploring the potential of digital technology to sell Heat as a Service rather than in kilowatt hours (kWh).

Energy services create opportunities for entirely new business models and policy options, and could provide a powerful proposition for the switch to low carbon heating.

The Innovation

Bristol Energy is trialling a Heat as a Service business model by offering households in the Living Lab a bespoke ‘Heat Plan’ – where people buy ‘Warms Hours’ instead of kWh.

Heat Plans provide consumers with room-by-room, hour-by-hour control over their heating. Using data collected via a smart heating control system, the energy provider can calculate a fixed monthly cost that is bespoke to the triallist’s home and lifestyle and does not fluctuate with the weather.

This approach is designed to give people greater control over comfort and cost. Crucially, it also:

  • Provides a commercial incentive for energy providers to deliver comfort using less energy and carbon;
  • An opportunity for energy providers to differentiate themselves in a market; and
  • Could create a route-to-market for low carbon technology.

Our Approach

Building on the work of the Smart Systems and Heat programme, Energy Systems Catapult has developed a specialism in smart Energy Services to drive the creation of innovative business models to help energy providers give consumers improved control over cost and comfort, and create a route to market for low carbon technology.

The Energy Services specialism utilises:

  • Living Lab – over 100 real-world homes spread across the UK, with each property upgraded using HESG, to smart home levels that will be common by the middle of the 2020s.
  • Home Energy Services Gateway – a cloud-based, open, technology agnostic, digital platform, using extensive in-home IoT sensors/actuators, advanced data science and machine learning algorithms. Provides residents with room-by-room temperature control from a mobile app and interoperability between energy service providers and device manufacturers.
  • Consumer Insight – expertise in helping innovators research, develop, design, price, and run energy service trials with consumers in the Living Lab.
  • Data Science – drawing on over four million data points per home per day, our advanced data science helps develop, design, price, and analyse energy services using machine learning algorithms.
  • Business Model Innovation – help with developing of innovative commercial solutions for energy services for both today’s market arrangements, and possible future markets.