Smart energy solutions to protect the most vulnerable – the Liverpool way

An energy revolution is underway in and around Liverpool. 

As the city’s Mayoral Lead for Energy and Smart City, I take great pride in the knowledge that the Irish Sea hosts the UK’s largest concentration of offshore wind turbines and that we are setting up the Mersey to be a major test bed for commercially viable tidal energy.

And it is great to know that Liverpool is now home to 1,200 low carbon businesses who employ over 26,000 people. Their day job is to help the region lead the way in the green and sustainable economy, and they are proving very good at it!

But this revolution will only be a success if it contributes to a better life for everyone in our community, especially the most vulnerable. The council has already set up a number of schemes to provide much needed assistance to those that need it most.

From the Merseyside collective switching scheme, which helped over 16,000 households save around £220 a year on their energy bills, to the ‘Health Through Warmth’ award-winning programme and Energy Projects Plus, Liverpool has done much to assist some of our poorest residents with energy affordability issues.

To ensure we reach everyone in our communities, the council's energy and fuel poverty officers also run fuel poverty surgeries in health centres, GP surgeries and libraries.   

But with more than 14% of our local residents still living in fuel poverty, we knew more had to be done.

Thankfully, devolution, an increasing interest in local energy solutions, technological advances and developments in other British cities provided us with an opportunity to do just that.

Earlier this year, we decided to emulate what has been done in Nottingham and Leeds and set up our very own local energy supply to reduce electricity and gas fuel bills for the city’s residents and to enable us to deliver innovative energy services in the future. It is set to go live within weeks.

Our intention is two-fold: to benefit citizens financially while also pursuing broader environmental objectives. The new Liverpool Energy Community Company (LECCy) will enable us to provide high quality customer care, while tackling fuel poverty, supporting independent living and supporting local businesses to grow and thrive by offering lower tariffs than the existing suppliers.

LECCy will also enable us to accelerate the process of replacing existing costly pre-payment meter tariffs with smart meter pay-as-you-go cheaper alternatives in the city’s housing stock.

Smart meters are the new generation of gas and electricity meters that are currently being rolled out across Great Britain at no extra cost to the consumer. They will put an end to estimated billing, and enable the digitisation of the energy sector, which remains stuck in the analogue age.

Smart Energy GB is the voice of the smart meter rollout, and we will be working with them to encourage residents to explore and understand the potential of smart meters. We need that joined up approach.

My brief also covers Liverpool’s smart city agenda and I see real opportunities for Liverpool to seize the opportunities that this unique upgrade to our infrastructure provides. As well as enabling households to manage their energy consumption better, the digitisation enabled by smart meters will provide a platform for new digital services to develop - a win-win, too important to ignore.

Take the realm of health for instance. Energy use can often be a proxy for other issues. I am confident that with LECCy, we will be in a better position to promote independent living as vulnerable residents, who have smart meters installed could, with their consent, have their energy use monitored by a close friend, relative or a care professional.

And the opportunities are significant.  Recent research from Liverpool John Moore University has shown how smart technology could help our communities better look after individuals suffering from limiting conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

If all goes to plan, LECCy will be launched in early 2017. I am confident that like with Robin Hood Energy in Nottingham and White Rose Energy in Leeds, it will play a very big part in making sure our residents are able to reap the benefit of Liverpool’s very own smart energy revolution, with smart meters playing a pivotal role.

Cllr James Noakes – Mayoral Lead for Energy & Smart City, Liverpool City Council