Heat reduction target

Heat reduction target can be met by home energy management systems (HEMS)

The Climate Change Committee has issued a clear call to action: the UK must align efforts to reduce the cost of energy with its net zero ambitions or risk missing its Net Zero targets. This month’s record temperatures of 40 degrees were a reminder that we are seeing more extreme weather events and underlines the need for urgent action to reduce emissions.

UK consumers are particularly vulnerable to energy price hikes because the UK has the oldest, least energy efficient housing stock in Europe, meaning more energy, and more money, is required to heat our homes.

The CCC says that heat demand in buildings needs to be lowered by over 25% from 2019 to 2035 in order to stay on track with the UK’s net zero ambitions. The long-term solution will require a combination of much better insulated homes and a move to heat pumps and other low carbon forms of heating.

Improving the energy efficiency of the UK’s housing stock is clearly the right long-term strategy, but will take many years to deliver. We can make more immediate and major reductions in heat just by running our heating systems more efficiently. This can be done through the installation of Home Energy Management Systems (HEMS) – low cost, simple to use systems that capitalise on smart meter data to drive bill and carbon savings for consumers.

A HEMS taps into largely unused smart meter data to understand when the home can use energy more efficiently. It then automatically makes the necessary changes to drive down bills without the household needing to get involved, taking the hassle out of using energy efficiently. This last point is pivotal because we recognise that all of this is only really possible if the pain of change is minimised for the householder.

Heat offers the most immediate savings, as a good smart thermostat linked to the HEMS will allow both gas and oil boilers to run more efficiently, saving 10-15 per cent on heating bills just by using less fuel. The HEMS can provide even bigger saving, for example, by turning down heating when the house is empty, saving a further 5 per cent on the average heating bill.

HEMS are so effective that up to 80 per cent of the reduction of heating demand the CCC is calling for can be delivered by the rapid roll-out of these new systems alongside or as a retrofit to, smart meter installations. The ease of installation means HEMS can be deployed very quickly, making a difference today, not in many years’ time, saving cost and carbon now and buying us time to insulate Britain’s homes, to reach the remaining 5 per cent of the CCC’s target. So it’s not an “either or” but an “and, and.”

And smarter heating is just one of the benefits HEMS deliver. They can also help homes to automatically run white goods on off peak electricity, saving 3-4 per cent a year for homes using a multi-rate tariff. And for homes with an EV or a heat pump, those automatic savings can be much bigger. As the UK market evolves, HEMS are also ready to automatically control devices in the home, letting consumers save money and reduce carbon through reacting to demand side response (DSR) signals. In total, a good HEMS can save almost 20 per cent on average energy bills – with average bills now reaching almost £2,000 a year, that means savings of £400 annually — while reducing household emissions by 20 per cent.

A few years ago, a HEMS with this sort of capability would have been too complex and too expensive to allow mass market deployment. Now, HEMS can be deployed by energy suppliers for a similar cost to, and in place of, the in-home energy displays that are installed in every home as part of the GB Smart Meter roll-out, delivering a payback in weeks, not years.

Such is the potential of these systems to make a concrete difference to consumers’ lives and the UK’s net zero ambitions, that geo is convening a coalition of like-minded organisations to engage with the Government and identify the most effective pathways to roll-out HEMS and demand-side technology at scale. Action on this is vital. As the CCC points out, without effective delivery, Britain will miss its climate change targets and will prolong the misery caused by reliance on expensive fossil fuels.