There are currently many discussions about a new energy age. About new power lines, wind farms, the future of coal-fired power plants or a modern European emissions trading system. But what can the individual do for climate protection and more responsible use of energy? The pilot project "Saving Money through Clever Heating" shows: only transparency makes householders players in the energy transition.
Heating and hot water alone account for 85% of the energy requirements of a private household in Germany. If every household only saved a little energy, with over 40 million households, the savings would already be substantial. All the more so when you not only think of private households in Germany but also those in large, energy-intensive economies such as China or Brazil.
Submetering: everyone pays for what they consume
But how can that work? A simple, cost-efficient key to success is submetering. That is individual consumption-dependent recording and billing of heating energy and hot water. Tenants receive an annual bill for their individual consumption and the associated costs. Each tenant only pays for the energy he has actually used and is completely free to decide himself: how consciously do I want to control my energy behaviour? In many countries, submetering has already been obligatory in apartment buildings for decades. The result is impressive: the EU Commission believes that submetering saves from 15 to even 30% of energy, CO2 and costs a year – simply through metering and the fair allocation of individual energy and water consumption costs.
Submetering 2.0: new digital possibilities
The technology used for metering and visualising consumption data has changed rapidly since the introduction of submetering. Thanks to advanced radio technology, the data are, to a large extent, already read digitally and remotely. The traditional meter-reader no longer has to enter homes to read the individual heat cost allocators. « Nowadays, our radio system in the building records the consumption data of the individual apartments very exactly and reliably and transmits them by mobile radio to our servers at ista’s head office. We then process the data and, in the next step, make them available to our customers in a simple and transparent way, » explains Antonio Fischetti, Head of Marketing and Business Development at ista Germany, and adds: « With this digital consumption metering, we can again considerably increase the possibilities and efficiency of submetering. » For – in contrast to electricity – the infrastructure is already fully developed and ready to use for sub-annual recording and visualisation of consumption.
Saving Money through Clever Heating
In order to verify this, ista, together with the German Energy Agency (dena), the German Tenants’ Association and the Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, initiated the « Saving Money through Clever Heating » pilot project. The idea is simple: if transparency leads to greater energy efficiency in the home, transparency has to be systematically increased. In addition to their annual bill, the tenants in the pilot project therefore receive monthly information on their individual energy consumption – digitally on a web portal or as an app on their smartphone.
The energy data management system was developed by ista. The tenants can view and analyse their consumption figures and costs with just a few clicks. Forecast functions show how their personal consumption will probably develop in the coming weeks and months. Anonymised comparisons with other households put their own consumption in the right perspective. Together with conversions into euros and kilograms of CO2, every tenant gains complete transparency of his consumption behaviour.
Initial results are convincing
The project started in autumn 2013. In the meantime, almost 200 households in Berlin, Munich and Essen are participating. The result after two heating periods: tenants who are informed monthly about their heating consumption require on average 16% less energy than tenants who do not receive regular heating information. And the tenants in the neighbourhood also benefit from the field test: for example, heating consumption falls on average by 12% in the buildings of the pilot regions. This is due in particular to an increased exchange of information among the tenants and greater sensitisation of all tenants after having been contacted about potential participation in the project. Moreover, extrapolated to an average multi-family building in Germany, it is shown that a tenant could save almost 80 euros per year by receiving monthly consumption information. These savings are offset by the cost of the service of between 21 and 41 euros per year, depending on the metering technology installed. The bottom line is that the tenant saves up to 60 euros. “The technical work involved is minimal, the costs per household are absolutely manageable whereas the savings effect is huge,” Antonio Fischetti says.
No wonder the tenants are satisfied with the pilot project. Over 80% of the participants surveyed would, in principle, recommend the energy data management system to friends, colleagues and acquaintances. Over 70% of the participants say that they now have better control over their consumption. Federal Environment Minister, Barbara Hendricks, also thinks that providing monthly consumption information is a good idea: “Energy costs are a major component of people’s total rent. Regular consumption information can help to reduce the so-called second rent,” Hendricks said when she received the study results in Berlin. “Furthermore, it sensitises consumers to the responsible use of energy and can therefore make a contribution to climate protection.”