SMS and Oxfordshire CC to deliver smart homes trial

SMS and Oxfordshire County Council have received £5.3 million in funding from the UK Government’s Alternative Energy Markets Innovation Programme to find new ways for households to use energy more smartly and flexibly.

Together, the smart energy solutions specialist and the council will work closely to deliver a smart homes trial that will involve up to 50,000 homes and small businesses in Oxfordshire.

The project – which is independent of UK energy suppliers – aims to show how giving people more information about their energy use and offering time-of-use tariffs that encourage using electricity when it’s cheaper (and greener) can help more people to start using Energy Smart Appliances (ESAs).

ESAs are devices like batteries, heat pumps or intelligent whitegoods that can automatically adjust when they use electricity based on when it’s cheaper or more environmentally friendly. This means they can use less power during busy, expensive times and more when it’s cheaper and greener.

At the start of the trial, people will get to see detailed information via an app, and then get personalised advice on how to make their homes more energy efficient, including the option to install smart technology such as ESAs. These devices will be offered to consumers through an affordable monthly subscription that makes it easier and cheaper to get started, avoiding the big upfront costs usually needed.

Participants will also have the option to switch to a special time-of-use tariff that charges less during off-peak hours. This can save money and reduce stress on the electricity grid, especially if they have smart devices that automatically adjust their energy use.

For those who choose to install a smart device – such as a battery or heat pump – the project will also explore how these homes and businesses can benefit more from participating in the UK’s Demand Flexibility Service (DFS). This scheme, started by the National Grid ESO last winter, pays people to use less electricity during peak times. Smart devices can do this automatically, potentially saving a lot more energy and money.

Tom Woolley, Smart Product & Strategy Director at SMS, explained:

“This innovative project represents a landmark for our industry, as it will be the first-ever example of an energy supplier-agnostic approach towards engaging UK consumers with energy usage on a significant scale. By being completely independent of energy supplier influence, we will be able to approach the project and the delivery of solutions to consumers from an impartial position with a clear objective in mind: to help them save money and optimise the demand flexibility of their homes. 

“By using energy data to understand consumer behaviour and the effectiveness of different propositions across alternative energy market scenarios, the project will also contribute valuable insights towards achieving the UK’s decarbonisation targets and for accelerating the mass adoption of smart energy technologies.”

Dale Hoyland, Retrofit Team Leader within the Climate Action Service at Oxfordshire County Council, adds:

“This project delivers multiple benefits; helping to tackle the climate emergency by minimising energy use when carbon loading on the electrical grid is highest; helping the cost of living crisis by testing innovative tariffs in an energy-supplier agnostic way, and providing a green financing mechanism for retrofit measures. It’s a win-win scenario and we’re delighted to support the roll-out across the county.”

Alongside SMS and Oxfordshire Country Council, the trial – which aims to retrofit 1,000 Oxfordshire properties – will be delivered by a consortium of partners including Samsung, My Utility Genius, Engage Consulting, Eliq, and Rebel Energy.

Image courtesy of SMS.

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