Project lead: COMAS
Local Energy Challenge Fund award amount: £25,000
Area: Cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow.
The project’s vision was to drive down energy costs and stimulate new renewable energy development in urban communities across Scotland.
The project aimed to test a new model that would:
- allow residents or landlords of multi-occupancy blocks to form new Local Energy Supply Companies (LESCOs) compatible with the current regulatory framework
- enable local renewable generation to be directly linked and ‘netted’ from the consumption of LESCO customers, without requiring installation of a private wire network
- empower communities to negotiate the cost of their imported electricity with national energy suppliers, using more accurate electricity demand data, incentivising energy efficiency and demand side management for LESCO customers through ‘benefit sharing’ business models.
Project aims and objectives
The project would use new metering systems and communications technology to link the demand of multiple individual households, so they are treated as a single individual entity by a traditional electricity supplier and potentially aggregated with metering data from local generation. The model does not require 100% resident participation and any customer wishing to leave LESCO will be able to do so with a simple change to their metering configuration.
Comas and Community Energy Scotland identified two suitable housing blocks in Edinburgh, comprising over 100 properties, where the model for aggregated multi-ownership situation could be tested.
In summary, the investigation concluded the following.
- Aggregation of demand through Smart Meters, networked by wifi, has high potential to enable urban communities with multi-rise buildings to achieve electricity tariffs well below current market rates, by enabling the community to present as a “commercial load” to suppliers.
- There is added value by using demand data to enable suppliers to manage supply across a 24 hour period, using storage heating as a means of ensuring peak time electricity is used less. This does require storage heaters to be new or adapted.
- The end of Feed In Tariffs could impact on community use of renewables. However, we established that Solar PV installation on some roofs in the multi-rise area could help the community achieve savings to offset electricity costs. Work in Glasgow to explore directly supplying communities from local electricity generation, modelled on the Commonwealth village and Emirates Stadium site, supports this.
- Local investigation of community need provided an overview of a community burdened by higher pre-payment tariffs (85%) and fuel debt. We can project a 25% saving on electricity tariffs for most community members (based on Scottish average tariffs); there are diverse suppliers in the area and many people have found switching challenging, due to low confidence, low use of the internet for comparison sites, and poor follow-through by suppliers.
- We encountered 100% support for a community-led company and cheaper electricity, but our work locally also showed that a local customer services team would be needed, to help people switch, and then to provide budgeting support, energy advice and customer service. We felt this would be the only way to ensure a local energy company would be successful and sustainable.
- Financial projections showed that savings on electricity are sufficient to enable a local team to be sustained after Local Energy Challenge Fund investment.