How digitisation is delivering improved services

21.02.2019

Devices such as the smartphone and Amazon Alexa give the residents ability to control everything from the room temperature to their electric car, which is charging up in front of their house. Digital solutions not only can help to make our lifes easier but also to save essential resources.

ista is working today on technologies for tomorrow’s digital world with the aim of making the world a fairer place for all consumers. In contrast to the huge data volumes of individual power consumers which are recorded by smart metering, from the washing machine to the individual lights in different rooms, submetering remains focused on the metering and visualisation of heat and hot water, cooling, electricity and/or cold water consumption in an apartment or a property. However utilising “smart” sub metering data provides tenants and building owners the possibility of managing their energy consumption by using digital channels to prepare and plan transparent utility consumption. The savings potential is huge compared to the investment cost as conducted studies show.

Connecting communities with a smart solution

During a project in the United Kingdom this general idea was risen to a new level. The Highland Council, UK’s largest local government and a very rural region, called upon ista to help them with a large number of school and local authority sites, of which many had biomass boilers installed.

Initially, ista trialled a digital solution at one site. This involved retrofitting an existing meter to enable remote collection of energy data every half hour. This data was then made available on ista’s unique MinuteView portal. This portal provided the council with an integrated management and monitoring system. Thanks to the 24/7 realtime data, the Highland Council could remotely see any set alarms for signs of energy wastage. The trial was deemed to be such a success that the programme was rolled out to 100 sites across the Highland region.

The Highland Council

The Highland Council is the biggest single UK organisation with a Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme, which was set up by the UK Government to encourage uptake of renewable heat technologies amongst householders, communites and businesses through financial incentives. This ground-breaking scheme was the first of its kind in the world, and is expected to contribute towards the UK’s 2020 ambition of 12% of heating coming from renewable sources.

Make it more simple

To further the automation of the operation for the Highland Council, ista developed a bespoke web portal called BoilerView. This has provided the council with an easy-to-use dashboard, which is a single point of half hourly updated information for the whole estate, showing which sites are running as expected, which have a fault and which are running low on fuel. But the simple and effective web-based platform offers a lot more services like fuel monitoring and boiler status to the councils contractors. The council can see how the estate is operating and how effective its contractors are responding to issues.

Fuel Monitoring

The system integrates into the pellet delivery people to record the amount of pellets delivered. Assessing the heat generated at the meters enables ista to monitor very accurately the status of the stores and message the delivery company when stock is running low. This is also used to ensure that the delivery company knows what is possible on deliveries to optimise top-up schedules; reducing wasted journeys and fuel costs. The pellet companies have extended this for all of their boilers they manage beyond Highland council.

Boiler Status

All boilers irrespective of type in the field have a simple relay that can go high or low when they turn-off or go offline. This relay signal is attached as feedback through the ista modem; when triggered ista sends an automatic SMS and email to the Maintenance companies for each boiler allowing them the react immediately; before tenants or users of the heat where unaware of problems until the started to suffer loss of comfort. The approach used does not need detailed technical knowledge of the boiler rooms, pumps and set-up for this service. This alarming allows the maintenance teams to see the amount of failures and performance of the estate to confirm the number of people needed to manage failures; analytics and planning are improved. The maintenance companies have increased the number of monitored boilers beyond the Highland council to cover their additional customers.

Transparency: Time- and moneysaver

Since the roll out of the scheme, the half hourly data collected from sites has been sent on a daily basis to the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem). Ofgem is the government regulator for the electricity and downstream natural gas markets in Great Britain, who have undertaken no more audits, saving both the council and regulator time and money. Due to the success of this trial, consideration is being given to the future addition of other utilities, including gas and solar power, to assist the council with monitoring and maintaining their services.

BoilerView gives all council users the ability to view the status of the boilers, giving awareness to everyone. It’s a fantastic tool to be used. At no point am I isolated from knowing how the biomass boilers are performing. It’s a huge benefit for us.
Neil Mackay, Senior Energy Inspector at The Highland Council

The future

We believe that the advance of digitisation in our everyday lives has provided a genuine opportunity for greater sustainability. One of ista’s new projects currently in the pipeline is ista.care, which is designed as a one-stop dashboard for property managers who can view all their data via a single and easy to understand dashboard. Much more than just a metering data collection tool, ista.care has also been designed to show accounts, billing and payment information incorporating smart and automated workflows
This single application makes it easier and quicker for property managers to remotely monitor multiple locations without the need for time consuming and costly site visits. The future will show whether we can sustainably protect the world’s resources and still use the latest technologies.