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The Importance of Apprenticeships

University isn’t for everyone. It can be a great environment to grow and learn in, but it’s expensive and (despite what various careers advisors would have you believe) it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution for everyone’s learning styles and needs. While some people thrive in an academic environment, others benefit from getting stuck in and getting […]

University isn’t for everyone. It can be a great environment to grow and learn in, but it’s expensive and (despite what various careers advisors would have you believe) it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution for everyone’s learning styles and needs.

While some people thrive in an academic environment, others benefit from getting stuck in and getting involved out in the workplace. Not everyone has the conviction to take their next step with an apprenticeship, but those who do can learn a lot by getting neck-deep in a company’s processes and procedures, adding tons of value to the company while they’re at it. The team member grows with the business, and the business grows with the team member. It’s a virtuous cycle.

Kieran is just the latest team member to wrap up an apprenticeship with us, and it’s been brilliant watching him grow, thrive and become an integral part of Team Sycous.

An apprenticeship isn’t just about giving great talent skills and intimate knowledge of your organisation, though – apprenticeships grow loyalty and retention (something that’s particularly important in a business as specific and technical as ours). You get in on the ground floor, bringing in talent at an early age. For us, apprenticeships are a crucial element of how we weave the fabric of our business.

The apprentice isn’t the only team member who benefits, either. Providing them with the training and attention they need drives more established colleagues to enhance their communication and mentoring skills, as well as sharpen up their own knowledge in their job role.

That’s not to mention how invigorating it is to have a fresh injection of spirit into your organisation! Fresh minds bring fresh ideas (that aren’t just, ‘well we did it this way at my last place’) to the table, pushing the business forward with new thinking and not letting the veterans rest on their laurels.

And yep, you bet there’s a warm gooey feeling that comes from watching someone grow and develop in such a short period of time. If you get it right (and we don’t mind saying that Kieran and our other former protégés are proof we’re doing something right) it’s extremely rewarding to see an apprentice succeed and level up. It’s an addictive feeling and it’s hard to resist bringing the next young Padawan into the fold.

Apprentices are the skilled workers of the future and we don’t plan to sit around and wait for the future to come to us!

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We’ve been accredited by the Living Wage Foundation!

Here at Sycous, we strongly believe that in order to deliver excellent customer service it has to start from within, and that’s why we pride ourselves on ensuring our staff are treated fairly, recognised for the work they do, and rewarded as such. Our employees hard work and dedication to the Sycous brand means we […]

Here at Sycous, we strongly believe that in order to deliver excellent customer service it has to start from within, and that’s why we pride ourselves on ensuring our staff are treated fairly, recognised for the work they do, and rewarded as such. Our employees hard work and dedication to the Sycous brand means we are able to deliver the best possible service and products to all our customers, and because of this we only think it fair that this commitment is reflected in the wage we pay each member of staff.

Ever since starting the Sycous brand, we have been working towards ensuring all our staff not only enjoy the work they do, but also earn enough to live comfortably, making their way through the month without having to worry about how they are going to make ends meet. Stressed employees = an unhappy workplace, inefficient working, and in the long run, dissatisfied customers. That is why we are extremely proud to have been accredited by the Living Wage Foundation for paying all employees a realistic ‘living wage’.

Speaking of the accreditation, Katherine Chapman, Director, Living Wage Foundation said:

“We welcome Sycous to the Living Wage movement as an accredited employer.

“Responsible businesses across the UK are voluntarily signing up to pay the real Living Wage now.

The real Living Wage rate is annually calculated to reflect the real costs of living. We are a movement of over 3000 UK employers who together want to go further than the government minimum to make sure all their staff earn enough to live on.

These businesses recognise that the Living Wage accreditation is the mark of a responsible employer and they, like Sycous, join us, because they too believe that a hard day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay.”

Joe Collier, Director, Sycous added: 

“We’re really proud to be members of the Living Wage Foundation. We work really hard to make sure our team are happy; earning a living wage, supported with ongoing training and development and a great social atmosphere are all key to having an effective work/life balance.”

We want to thank The Living Wage Foundation for acknowledging the efforts we make to ensure our workplace is a happy one, and we hope you, as customers reap the rewards of our hardworking, happy employees.

For more information on The Living Wage Foundation visit:

www.livingwage.org.uk/

Or to speak to one of our team about how we can help you, get in touch at:

www.sycous.com/get-in-touch

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#SycousSays – Bob Hatton for CIBSE Magazine

As some of you may have seen, our Business Development Director, Bob Hatton, wrote an article for CIBSE Journal this month, discussing the new Heat & Metering regulations 2014. Here at Sycous, we do like to go on about the regulations a fair bit, so any opportunity to voice our opinion on the topic is […]

As some of you may have seen, our Business Development Director, Bob Hatton, wrote an article for CIBSE Journal this month, discussing the new Heat & Metering regulations 2014. Here at Sycous, we do like to go on about the regulations a fair bit, so any opportunity to voice our opinion on the topic is one we grab with both hands!

In the article, Bob discusses the recent criticism of the regulations in the CIBSE Journal 2017, stating that he believes Terrance Rooks critical opinions are misguided and ill-informed. As a business in the heat and metering industry, we feel so passionate about the regulations as they ensure that, as Bob says “both domestic and commercial heat users are billed fairly and transparently for the heat they use.” Unlike other regulations, such as the Code for Sustainable Homes and Green Deal, these regulations have a real defined and practical purpose, which is most important when implementing and following regulations in such a sector.

The article then goes on to criticise Rooks opinions on the price of metering and billing, stating that “heat meters are expensive.” As Business Director at Sycous, Bob knows more than anyone that this is an uneducated incorrect statement, and these days, meters can be installed for less than £200. Also, with payment plans such as Sycous OpenPay, this cost can be staggered over a period of time, which takes the weight of heavy upfront payments. In terms of billing, insourcing an appropriate billing strategy with a software such as the one Sycous provides, an affordable figure of £24 per tenant per year can easily be achieved.

With the government wishing to expand low-carbon district energy in the UK, Bob believes heat metering is far from being consigned to the dustbin, and is definitely here to stay!

Bob Hatton would like to thank CIBSE Journal for the opportunity to voice his opinion, and encourages you all to let him know your thoughts on the new heat regulations:

Tweet – @Sycous #SycousSays.

To read the full article, pick up a copy of CIBSE Journal, March 2017, Page 15, or alternatively visit our Twitter @Sycous.

http://www.cibsejournal.com/magazine/2017-03/

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Sycous at Ecobuild Sycous at Ecobuild

EcoBuild 2017

Last week was a big week for the team here at the Sycous office, as we travelled up to London for EcoBuild 2017! The event, which is the leading conference for construction, design and energy, allowed us to share our passion for all things metering with tens of thousands of you – and we had […]

Last week was a big week for the team here at the Sycous office, as we travelled up to London for EcoBuild 2017! The event, which is the leading conference for construction, design and energy, allowed us to share our passion for all things metering with tens of thousands of you – and we had an absolutely brilliant time!

Over the three days, we had some really interesting discussions with housing associations, local authorities and house builders about the importance of open protocol systems, and we were really overwhelmed with the amount of support we received in discussing this topic! At Sycous, we are really passionate about promoting the benefits of open protocol, as not only do they reduce risks, they also improve overall service and costs, a benefit for both suppliers and consumers. We do appreciate that sometimes insourcing metering and billing can seem daunting, however open protocol gives clients the opportunity to move between outsourced solutions when needed, whilst also allowing them to maintain flexibility and change providers when they aren’t delivering.

Speaking of the event, Luke Chambers, Commercial Director said:

“It was really interesting speaking to everyone about the benefits of open protocol systems at EcoBuild 2017. Our software, which has been developed to take the difficulty out of insourcing, attracted a lot of interest, and we were delighted to see you all share our passion for our Sycous software.

We would like to thank EcoBuild for the opportunity to speak at such an inspiring event, and encourage anyone who we spoke to throughout the event to get in touch and see how we can help!”

If you didn’t manage to attend the event, our team will be happy to discuss our range of software, hardware and services, and you can also catch up with our live tweets from the day over on Twitter @Sycous.

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We’re off to EcoBuild 2017!

Renowned for its unrivalled education programme, interactive features and the latest technologies, Sycous will be amongst good company at this year’s Ecobuild event. Against a backdrop of political and economic change, with a demand for new opportunities in heat networks, metering and community regeneration, we will be there to demonstrate our innovation and creativity in […]

Renowned for its unrivalled education programme, interactive features and the latest technologies, Sycous will be amongst good company at this year’s Ecobuild event.

Against a backdrop of political and economic change, with a demand for new opportunities in heat networks, metering and community regeneration, we will be there to demonstrate our innovation and creativity in this vibrant sector. There has never been a more relevant time for us to exhibit and we hope you can join us on Stand F235 or come along to our Heat Metering and Billing talk at the UKDEA Pavilion at 14:00 on Thursday 09 March.

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Sycous discusses the fundamentals of aM&T at ESTA’s conference

Yesterday we were delighted to be part of ESTA’s automatic Monitoring & Targeting (aM&T) conference at the Ricoh Arena, Coventry. aM&T is the key management tool for identifying and reducing utility waste thereby helping people and organisations cut costs and carbon emissions. As you may know, Sycous’ smart meter solutions and the bespoke software we […]

Yesterday we were delighted to be part of ESTA’s automatic Monitoring & Targeting (aM&T) conference at the Ricoh Arena, Coventry.

aM&T is the key management tool for identifying and reducing utility waste thereby helping people and organisations cut costs and carbon emissions.

As you may know, Sycous’ smart meter solutions and the bespoke software we have developed automatically provide information for people to take action to reduce their energy waste.

Given our expertise in this area, it was only fitting that we should exhibit at the event and present our wares.

On the day we heard about some great innovations in energy data and our very own Bob Hattan contributed to ‘The Fundamentals of aM&T’, one of the event’s seminars in the morning.

At Sycous, we see a future where data revolutionises the way we interact with our energy. We make it our mission to keep on top of the latest industry knowledge and regulatory advice, and this event is no exception.

If you would like to discuss how automatic data can help you reduce energy waste and make savings contact us.

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The Big Heat Metering Debate 2017 – The 101.

As some of you may know, yesterday we left the home comforts of the good ol’ north and headed down to London to attend Capita’s Big Heat Metering Debate. Headed by a panel of metering industry experts, including our very own Commercial Director Luke Chambers, the debate looked at current industry trends, including the new […]

As some of you may know, yesterday we left the home comforts of the good ol’ north and headed down to London to attend Capita’s Big Heat Metering Debate. Headed by a panel of metering industry experts, including our very own Commercial Director Luke Chambers, the debate looked at current industry trends, including the new BEIS heat regulations.

The day kicked off with a great speech from Winckworth Sherwood’s Colin Hall, who gave us an insightful view into current regulations and the fact that they can be used as a tool, not just a rule and also a way of deepening engagement with consumers. As passionate as we are about the industry, we absolutely loved the opportunity to hear Colin’s views on where he thinks the industry currently stands and where he thinks it’s heading – in terms of engagement and business process.

Next, we heard from Simon Trevenna at BEIS, who highlighted the status quo of the regulations, including retrofit rules on hold due to the Viability Tool. He also announced that the information collected from notifications should be available tomorrow on gov.uk, so we’ll be sure to keep an eye out for that!

Although we’re self-confessed regulations geeks, we’ll admit that we even learnt a thing or two! If you’re interested in knowing what the new regulations mean for you, read our simple PDF guide here.

Following all the regulation talk, the audience then had the chance to ask Luke and the other panelists any questions, which then led to the long awaited Big Heat Metering Debate 2017. There was a great response from both the audience and the panelists, and we particularly liked how none of the panelists were let off easy – each one stood their ground well!

Speaking of the event, Luke Chambers, Commercial Director, said:

“Attending the Big Heat Metering debate has been a great experience for not only myself but all of the Sycous team. Hearing from so many interesting individuals within the industry, including both my fellow panelists and members of the audience, has not only widened my eyes to different opinions in the industry, but has also greatly inspired all of us here at Sycous.

We want to thank Capita for the opportunity to voice our opinion and share our Sycous expertise at such a great event, and we can’t wait to see you all at the next one!”

The Viability Tool will go to consultation in May, with the intention of releasing the new regulations in autumn this year. We will be at the forefront of any new information and the Sycous team are more than happy to help with any queries you might have.

To see our live Tweets from the day of the event visit @Sycous.

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The Big Heat Metering Debate 22/02/2017

Here at Sycous we’re firm believers that if you have a voice, you should use it – and that is exactly why we’re off to London for the Big Heat Metering debate 2017. The event, which will be hosted by Capita in association with the Affordable Housing team and Winckworth Sherwood, aims to give expert […]

Here at Sycous we’re firm believers that if you have a voice, you should use it – and that is exactly why we’re off to London for the Big Heat Metering debate 2017.

The event, which will be hosted by Capita in association with the Affordable Housing team and Winckworth Sherwood, aims to give expert insight into the industry and give the lowdown on the ever-looming new heat regulations. We know at a first glance they can seem super confusing, so we’re going to try our best to break them down and help individuals understand exactly how they might affect their business. We’ve also created a handy PDF that gets rid of the horrible jargon and explains all the need-to-know information regarding the new regulations. Access the PDF document here.

For those of you attending the event, don’t worry, it’s not just going to be us rambling on for hours, we’ll be joined by a number of representatives from all the big names in the industry, and you’ll also have the chance to ask any questions which will hopefully spark the big debate!

For the panel, we’re putting our best man forward – Luke Chambers, Commercial Director. He certainly knows what he’s talking about when it comes to metering, but don’t just take it from us. Throughout the debate the audience will have the chance to put his knowledge to the test and gain an insight into Sycous’ innovative expertise from the horses mouth himself.

Speaking of the debate, Luke Chambers, Commercial Director said:

At Sycous we’re so passionate about what we do, and to be given the chance to voice our opinion alongside some of the industry’s biggest names is an opportunity I can’t wait to be a part of.

To me, our clients will always be at the forefront of our business, so if by being on this panel I can educate, inspire, and hopefully even entertain individuals who have taken their time to attend the event, I will be happy.

If you aren’t attending the event, don’t worry, we’ll also be live tweeting throughout the day, so follow and tweet us @Sycous to keep up to date.

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Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations 2014

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mySycous – Award winning energy billing software

mySycous Brochure

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mySycous Brochure

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Metering and Billing Made Easy

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‘Brexit’ and the Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations 2014

We have a decision on the EU referendum for the United Kingdom to leave the EU. Arguably this could have a large impact on the Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations 2014, especially as it was implemented from the EU Directive on Energy Efficiency 2012. I have already heard mumblings of resistance to these regulations following […]

We have a decision on the EU referendum for the United Kingdom to leave the EU. Arguably this could have a large impact on the Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations 2014, especially as it was implemented from the EU Directive on Energy Efficiency 2012.

I have already heard mumblings of resistance to these regulations following the result of the referendum, arguing they may no longer apply in future.

This is an interesting thought but it is more likely that these regulations will continue to exist and not only for the period of any negotiation.

Although we are leaving the EU, the UK will remain committed to our energy efficiency obligations. The most recent of these was the Paris Agreement. This was undertaken as the United Kingdom alone and not as part of the EU, although this still needs to be ratified or acceded.

As a country we have long sought to lead the development of energy technologies, including those for export around the world. We recognise our impact on our environment and the opportunity we have to limit and even start reversing our impact.

The UK is relatively practical in the implementation of policies, ensuring their long-term cost effectiveness. The installation of individual heat meters under current regulations are only required on existing district and communal heat networks where they are cost effective and technically feasible. The definition and scope of ‘cost-effective’ is being debated following the earlier suspension of the assessment tool.

This review of the Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations will ensure it remains cost-effective but also achieves the UK’s wider ambitions in terms of energy efficiency, security of supply and fuel poverty reductions.

Beyond the EU, the UK directly recognises that ‘Heat networks can contribute to local authorities’ targets and aspirations for carbon emissions reduction, fuel poverty, cost reduction, regeneration, local jobs and growth.

The drive to develop heat networks in the UK will not change and therefore the infrastructure and regulation around the consumer experience of heat networks will only grow. This infrastructure will include the requirement for metering, where appropriate, so consumers only pay fairly for what they are using and are incentivised to control their consumption.

Alongside this, the heat network sector represents a growing energy supply market, meeting wider social, political and environmental aims that are unlikely to change. Our commitment to ‘smart’ metering in the utilities industry to ensure fair billing practises offers synergies with the metering regulations developing in the heat sector.

If you require further information on the Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations 2014 and options for metering, data collection of heat billing, please Get in Touch.

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The Zenner WR3 Heat Meter Datasheet

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The new Zelsius C5 Heat Meter Datasheet

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Our Partnership on Metering and Billing

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Your guide to MBUS networks

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Safe & Sound Data Security

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Our Software and Anchor Case Study

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Heat Metering Regulations Webinar with the NMRO

Join Sycous, in partnership with the National Measurement and Regulation Office (NMRO) and Sustainable Homes, on Friday 10th June 2016 at 10am in our webinar on the Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regultions 2014. We will also be looking at the practicalities of heat metering and discussing potential savings and the impact on heat consumers. Join […]

Join Sycous, in partnership with the National Measurement and Regulation Office (NMRO) and Sustainable Homes, on Friday 10th June 2016 at 10am in our webinar on the Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regultions 2014. We will also be looking at the practicalities of heat metering and discussing potential savings and the impact on heat consumers.

Join our expert panel to get the latest update on the eagerly anticipated viability tool from Chris Smith at the NMRO. The potential impact of the viability tool and with no officially announced extension to the deadline for compliance, this is a webinar that’s simply too important to miss.

Sycous will also be talking about the results from our DECC Heat Network Innovation Competition, where we looked at the potential benefits of installing heat meters on previously un-metered heat networks. We will talk through the innovative operating methods employed to ensure heat network operators, such as Local Authorities and Registered Providers, can offer the most cost effective heat heat metering and heat billing solutions, without being locked to individual providers.

We will be talking through real-world scenarios, looking at choosing the right solution for the heat network operator and consumers, answering key questions such pay-as-you-go or credit billing? Do you have a pressing question about the regulations to ensure the action you take as a heat network operator is appropriate.

Sign up today and don’t miss out, register at http://www.sustainablehomes.co.uk/webinar-heat-meter-regulations.

We’ll also be publishing live updates on Twitter, follow us @Sycous to keep up to date.

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Metering and billing has never been so easy

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How to Future-Proof Heat Network Metering and Consumer Charging Solutions

Last week was our first full week of 2016 and it was a great start to the new year.

Last week was our first full week of 2016 and it was a great start to the new year.

One huge positive we’re experiencing is the knowledge that those developing and operating heat networks, or district heating, are gaining about choosing the right metering and consumer charging solution.OMS-Group_Logo

This includes not only the meter and data collection system but also how this translates into the right consumer charging solution. Heat network operators are increasingly looking for a solution that works now and is adaptable to their future requirements.

Already there is a growing knowledge that choosing an ultrasonic, MID Class 2 heat meter is a robust and technically sound choice. A great example is the ZENNER C5.

Alongside this, having a meter output and data collection system that utilises MBus means that the data is not locked to any supplier but instead the system is ‘open-protocol’. MBus is also available in both hardwired and wireless versions, making it flexible to any development.

One important thing to remember is that you should check that any MBus meter and data collection system confirms to the Open Metering System (OMS) standard. This is based on the European Standard EN13757 and means that any MBus OMS meter or data collection solution you purchase will talk the same language.

Final point on MBus- If you are going hardwired and installing MBus cabling, please don’t daisy chain! It causes so many issues during long term operation, instead have a Bus network topology so that any cable breaks are easy to locate and don’t have a large scale impact on receiving data.

The final decision that needs to be made is to select the right consumer charging solution. There are essentially two options; a standard billing arrangement or heat prepayment. The heat prepayment arrangement requires additional hardware i.e. a heat prepayment unit and prepayment value (to disconnect supply).

You can choose to insource or outsource your standard billing arrangements very easily, and integrate any solution into your existing IT systems such as housing management or financial systems. Sycous are experts on integrating these solutions.

When it comes to prepayment, your prepayment unit will be ‘closed-protocol’ and locked to one manufacturer or supplier. Historically this led to low levels of service and high costs.

However, there are now a growing number of prepayment solutions that can be insourced, as well as outsourced to multiple suppliers. Before committing to a prepayment solution, check that it would allow you to operate yourself, as well as having a number of cost-effective service providers to allow for simple outsourcing.

At Sycous we believe in making sure the solution is right and future-proofed for the heat network operator and the consumers. If you would like to find out more, or discuss options that are available to you, please Contact Us.

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A Home or Heat? A choice no one should need to make in 2016.

Well it’s the first Monday back after the Christmas and New Year break. One of the warmest Decembers on record but the temperatures have started to fall- as I felt on my cycle into work this morning!

Well it’s the first Monday back after the Christmas and New Year break. One of the warmest Decembers on record but the temperatures have started to fall- as I felt on my cycle into work this morning!

One of the first things I normally do when arriving at the office is to read the news and this morning it was very sad to see a report from the housing charity, Shelter. It was found that 27% of parents of under-18’s, have had to cut winter spending on items such as heating and winter clothes to meet their housing costs.

The choice faced by some is either a home for their children or basic comfort conditions within that home. It is not a choice someone should have to make.

It is obvious we need to address the availability of affordable homes across the UK and hopefully we will see continued investment to achieve this. Most recently reported is that David Cameron is due to announce that the government is to ‘directly commission’ the building of up to 13,000 new affordable homes. Alongside this is the establishment a £1.2bn fund for the building of 30,000 starter homes over the next five years. Some steps in the right direction at least.

One important consideration when building new homes and ensuring they are ‘affordable’ is the cost of living in them, especially in relation to one of the biggest household costs – heat.
This is where heat networks can also help, establishing both an environmentally sound and cost effective solution to allow people to heat their homes- at least when they are developed and operated correctly.

Heat networks can go a little way to help remove the need for people to make choices between a roof over their heads or being warm and comfortable within that home.

So a first thought of the New Year- maybe in 2016 as we address the availability of affordable homes, we should ensure that any new affordable homes, wherever practical, include a well-designed and future-proofed heat network.

Happy New Year from all within the Sycous Team.

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Sycous have become a Partner of Sustainable Homes

Well it has been far too long since our last blog post but many things have been happening with Sycous. I’d like to take this particular blog and tell you about one very important change.

Well it has been far too long since our last blog post but many things have been happening with Sycous. I’d like to take this particular blog and tell you about one very important change.
Sycous have recently become a partner of Sustainable Homes, a leading training and advisory consultancy operating in the field of sustainable housing. Sustainable Homes, whose parent company is the Hastoe Group, are a social business whose profits are used to provide affordable and sustainable homes for Hastoe residents.

Sycous and Sustainable Homes have been working together for some time in relation to the Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations 2014, alongside DECC and the NMRO. This has increased the knowledge of these regulations that have a potential major impact on all housing providers, especially social housing providers. However, Sycous have actively promoted that this impact is also an opportunity for reducing costs and improving the environmental performance of heat networks.

As a partner organisation Sycous and Sustainable Homes will continue to promote the benefits of delivering metering and billing on heat networks that seek to empower both operators and residents. At Sycous we believe we can deliver the sustainability standard for homes and businesses connected to heat networks.

The benefits of heat networks both in terms of their environmental and fuel poverty credentials are well known. However, at Sycous we believe that with our metering and billing solutions we can do even more, including:

  • Reducing the cost of metering and billing that positively impact consumer tariffs
  • Never locking operators and consumers into long administration or maintenance contracts
  • Providing training and upskilling heat network operator teams to effectively utilise their existing resources, knowledge and experience
  • Empowering housing providers, who are also heat network operators, to continue to do what they do best – managing homes, people and finance, whilst automating everything else
  • Protecting jobs in local communities, including front-line team members for social housing providers

At Sycous we believe in providing the operators of heat networks the ability to effectively recover their costs and make sure the consumer experience of heat networks is a cost-effective and positive experience.

Over the next few weeks we’ll be publishing a number of case studies with our partners that include leading social landlords and local authorities. Follow us on Twitter or Like us on Facebook to make sure you keep up to date with the latest news from Sycous.

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The Heat Network (Metering & Billing) Regs – Changes and Uncertainty

Last week was a week of clarification and further uncertainty for heat network operators attempting to comply with the Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations 2014.

Last week was a week of clarification and further uncertainty for heat network operators attempting to comply with the Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations 2014.

At our Bristol Breakfast Seminar on Wednesday 15th July, Chris Smith at the National Measurement and Regulatory Office (NMRO) announced changes and clarifications to the Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations 2014.

Summary of Changes and Clarifications

  • Immediate suspension of the DECC viability tool for individual meters for review prior to the release of an updated tool
  • Clarification of the definition of an ‘apartment’ or ‘dwelling’
  • Clarification of the definition of an ‘multi-use’
  • Clarification on whether variable refrigerant flow (VRF) is in-scope or not

Immediate Suspension of the DECC Viability Tool
Although expected by some, the announcement of the suspension of the DECC individual heat meter viability tool within 24 hours was a surprise to the audience in Bristol on Wednesday. This was confirmed by DECC on Thursday 16th July and the www.gov.uk/heat-networks website was updated and the previous tool was removed.

There had been a concern over whether the viability tool had been fit-for-purpose for some time as every known heat network was out-of-scope. This suspension and review period, allowing DECC to standardise the viability tool alongside other member states, will likely mean that some heat networks, especially those connected to communal heat networks, will be required to retrospectively install individual heat meters.

At present there has been no confirmation that an extension to the requirement for the assessment AND installation of individual heat meters by 31st December 2016 will be provided. However, there was an indication that there may be a period of grace, depending how long the new tool takes to develop.

Chris Smith at the NMRO advised that best-practise compliance would always be to look at all heat networks and clarify whether the installation of individual heat meters would be technically viable and cost effective for those final customers and the heat network operator at a particular time. It could be the case that if a building is undergoing a refurbishment or a new communal heat network is being established, it would be most cost-effective to install individual heat meters at this time, even if it is not a requirement. This would then remove the potential future risks associated with compliance at a time when it may be more expensive to do so.

Also, the costs of installing individual heat meters can be passed onto residents within the heat network tariffs or other charging mechanisms to make these compliance requirements cost-neutral for the heat network operator.

The Definition of an ‘Apartment’ or ‘Dwelling’ and ‘Multi-use’
There had been many discussions at our previous events on the Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations 2014 over what is a district heat network and communal heat network, as well as what constitutes an apartment and multi-use.

The definition of district and communal heat networks has previously been clarified as:

  • District heat network – multiple connected buildings with at least one final customer
  • Communal heat network – one building with one or more final customers

On Wednesday we also received further clarifications on the definitions of an ‘apartment’ or ‘dwelling’ and ‘multi-use’. This has been an issue for a number of heat network operators, especially when looking at some heat-networks, such as with student halls of residence, where many services were shared.NMRO Bristol Scope 3

The definitions under the NMRO ‘Scope 3’ is as follows:

  • ‘Apartment’ (Domestic)
    • Cooking facilities
    • Sanitary facilities
    • Used as living space
  • ‘Multi-use’ (Non-Domestic)
    • Partitioned space
    • Non-residential activity
    • May be some shared services

This would mean that any apartment building, such as student halls of residence or supported living environments, where cooking or sanitary facilities are outside of the individual apartment would not to be in-scope of the regulations.

Alongside this any building with partitioned shared office space but with shared services, such as toilets, would be in scope.

Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) – In or Our of Scope?
At a previous event, it was advised that cooling schemes utilising variable refrigerant flow (VRF) were in-scope of the regulations. This has now been clarified and variable refrigerant flow (VRF) is actually out-of-scope. This is because individual energy metering would not be possible, and the only work-around would be the metering of the energy input of the system, which is not within scope of the regulations.

What to do next?
The best action going forward would be to continue to follow best practise advice and to look at heat networks on a case-by-case basis. The ultimate aim of the regulations is to allow for all heat and cooling networks to install individual meters, the only question is the timescale. If you have a new heat or cooling network, or are looking at a refurbishment it could present the best opportunity to install individual heat or cooling meters.

If you do require any further clarification, please contact our team on +44(0)1133845700 or email info@sycous.com who will be happy to assist in clarifying the Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations, as well as providing support across all elements of compliance from initial notification to the NMRO by 31st December 2015 through to the metering and ongoing billing of final customers connected to heat networks.

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The Sycous Family is Growing

We’re pleased to welcome the latest addition to the Sycous team, Fred Zarb, as Business Development Director. Fred brings with him an unrivalled knowledge of metering and data collection solutions for domestic and commercial clients, as well as a faithful commitment to providing exceptional levels of service. Fred will fit perfectly with the Sycous team […]

We’re pleased to welcome the latest addition to the Sycous team, Fred Zarb, as Business Development Director.

Fred brings with him an unrivalled knowledge of metering and data collection solutions for domestic and commercial clients, as well as a faithful commitment to providing exceptional levels of service.

Fred will fit perfectly with the Sycous team and our wider partners as we all continue our mission to bring hassle free, great value products and services to the heat network and sub-metering industry.

Luke Chambers, Sycous Commercial Director, said ‘the expansion of the Sycous commercial team both externally and through the supporting roles in the office is designed to bring together the right skills and personalities to help our client solve the real problems they face every day, and head off the problems they might come up against in the future. It’s all about having the right knowledge combined with the right attitude and complete focus on our customers’ needs, and Fred brings this in spades.”

Our recent drive on recruitment has been a huge success, with some great new team members starting over the next two months. We’ll be adding to our technical and support teams to provide exceptional service to all our customers and ensure we deliver the future of great value heat networks that work for everyone.

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DECC Heat Network Innovation Success

District heating is a hot topic this summer, with the announcement of the winners of the £6 million Phase Two Heat Networks Innovation fund. Here at Sycous we believe that consumer habits and engagement are critical for the long-term success and efficiency of heat networks, and this is the vision that the Department of Energy […]

District heating is a hot topic this summer, with the announcement of the winners of the £6 million Phase Two Heat Networks Innovation fund.hays_1226562

Here at Sycous we believe that consumer habits and engagement are critical for the long-term success and efficiency of heat networks, and this is the vision that the Department of Energy and Climate Change have backed by awarding Sycous Phase Two funding.

Our feasibility study in Phase One showed the impact that simply being smart about how we use metering data can have a huge impact on not just the cost, but also the environmental impact of running heat networks.

In our phase two study we will be working closely with West Lancashire Borough Council, and the University of Leeds to demonstrate these impacts on a live site, delivering savings for real consumers in Skelmersdale.

We will be using innovative billing methods, intelligent tariffs and consumer engagement to demonstrate savings of up to £5.00 per £1.00 of investment for consumers, alongside energy usage reductions of at least 12 percent.

Being smart about how we use metering data makes sense in today’s world. With the introductions of the Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations 2014 many networks across the UK will be collecting metering data anyway. A simple, cloud based system like mySycous can use this information to deliver further savings, not matter what fuels your network, how the pipes are laid or the insulation you use.

Don’t just collect your metering data, make use of it!

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EU Directive on Energy Efficiency 2012 – The Impact and Potential across Europe

There has been a very interesting draft publication from Housing Europe “Heat metering, efficient heat cost allocation and billing – Challenges and Opportunities: The point of view of public, cooperative and social housing”. Although supporting the overall benefits of individual heat metering or cost allocation to “help tenants to take control of their energy usage […]

There has been a very interesting draft publication from Housing Europe “Heat metering, efficient heat cost allocation and billing – Challenges and Opportunities: The point of view of public, cooperative and social housing”.

Although supporting the overall benefits of individual heat metering or cost allocation to “help tenants to take control of their energy usage and make lifestyle changes to save money, improve comfort and deliver positive health outcomes” there are some interesting questions posed.

One of the main concerns is relating to the assessment of cost effectiveness and it is also one that is particularly prevalent in the UK. There are a number of buildings where the cost effectiveness of installing heat meters far outweighs the potential benefits, such as where buildings were not designed to facilitate heat meters or cost allocation systems.

However, as these buildings are upgraded, particularly the heating systems, this presents an ideal opportunity to install individual metering systems at the lowest possible cost whilst maximising the benefits to the end consumers.

Currently in the UK, under the Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations 2014, it is a requirement only to install individual heat meters on upgrades on district heat networks which is where multiple buildings are served by one heat network and not on communal heat networks where one building with two are more final customers are served from one network.

It could be the best long-term decision for network operators to install individual meters at the time of construction or upgrade, whether the network is communal or district. This will ensure metering can be delivered at the lowest possible costs and all consumers can benefit equally from only paying for what they use and be empowered to take control of their energy usage.

One main point of note is that this report by Housing Europe highlights the need for “any measure related to metering systems should take place within the framework of a multi-faceted approach to energy efficiency (combining access to finance, training of professionals, use of renewable energy to decrease the overall carbon footprint) whereby residents and tenants have an important role”.

This is essential that in the UK, where heat metering and heat cost allocation is not commonplace, that any installations onto new or existing heat networks is combined with consumer engagement, training and ongoing support. Alongside this support for network operators, housing providers and their employees is required to ensure long-term engagement with consumers.

For further information on how Sycous can help network operators to comply with the Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations 2014, as well as helping support your team and your consumers with the training necessary on heat metering and cost allocation systems, please contact us on +44(0)113 3845 700.

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District Heating “Heat” Deliveries by- Lorries

One of the most successful heat sources for district heating or heat networks is waste heat from industrial or other processes. Instead of waste heat being ‘wasted’ by being returned to an ambient temperature it can be reused to heat homes and businesses. There are some interesting schemes across the UK, including a very recent […]

One of the most successful heat sources for district heating or heat networks is waste heat from industrial or other processes. Instead of waste heat being ‘wasted’ by being returned to an ambient temperature it can be reused to heat homes and businesses.

There are some interesting schemes across the UK, including a very recent addition in March this year at Sleaford, where heat is supplied from the Sleaford Renewable Energy Plant to a number of community buildings for free.

This form of heat requires no additional impact on the environment and can provide a low cost source of heat, or in the case of Sleaford for ‘free’.

However, one of the major issues associated with waste heat is the location of these industrial processes in relation to a large population density that requires the heat. Few people expect a large steelworks to be opening in the middle of a city or would see low cost heat as enough of an incentive to live on the doorstep of a nuclear power plant.

This often means this waste heat is partially used on site for heat and electricity generation with the remaining returned to an ambient temperature.

A recent idea from South Korea and the Hyundai Steel Company is to utilise thermal energy storage and transportation allowing waste heat from blast furnaces to be captured, stored and delivered by lorry to consumers. Maybe more reminiscent of coal deliveries and not a long-term solution but highlights the issues associated with location of waste heat to consumers and that solutions are required.

One of the most innovative solutions to this issue comes in the form of long-range, super large district heating systems utilising absorption heat exchange systems. Check out this keynote speech from Prof Lin Fu of Tsinghua University, Beijing.

In the future super-connected cities and heat networks, where the term ‘district heating’ just doesn’t reflect the magnitude of the system, could be distributing heat from a multitude of sources to meet local demands with efficiencies that we can only dream of.

With thanks to Rob Raine, PhD Student Energy Futures DTC at the University of Sheffield for highlighting the ideas of Prof Lin Fu.

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Do long-term contracts, often used to offset initial costs, offer long-term best value for district heating consumers?

There has been a concern expressed recently about certain district energy or district heating schemes by Fuel Poverty Action, who campaign “against the injustice of cold homes” and “take action for warm, well insulated homes and clean and affordable energy”. Fuel Poverty Action is specifically concerned about long-term supply contracts entered into by social landlords […]

There has been a concern expressed recently about certain district energy or district heating schemes by Fuel Poverty Action, who campaign “against the injustice of cold homes” and “take action for warm, well insulated homes and clean and affordable energy”.

Fuel Poverty Action is specifically concerned about long-term supply contracts entered into by social landlords when developing heat networks or district energy systems. These long-term contracts extend from 10 to over 30 years and can be the only method available to develop heat network or district energy systems. This is because of the high capital costs associated with their development and lack of available funding.

However, the effect of this can be that consumers are tied to one supplier for one or more of their utilities. The problems arise if the level of service consumers receive, or the cost of the provision of energy, becomes unacceptable.

There is no option to choose a different supplier that may offer a better level of service or lower cost. This leads to dissatisfaction from the end-consumers, directed towards the suppliers and the party tying them into the long contract.

Inevitably an element of the problem is down to the lack of funding available for the development of heat networks. The main source funding currently available is through the DECC Heat Network Delivery Unit and only covers feasibility studies. In order to achieve the true potential of district energy schemes there needs to be a review of the funding made available for capital costs associated with their development.

There is also a need for network operators, such as social housing providers and local authorities, to select hardware that does not tie them into any manufacturer or supplier, wherever possible. They also need to ensure that any administration and maintenance contracts are of an optimum length to allow the best overall value suppliers to be selected and any failures rectified or the supplier changed.

This ability to choose the best overall value service providers, as well as retaining the ability to switch if consumers are dissatisfied with the cost or level of service, is a powerful tool to ensure consumer engagement, especially if they can form part of the selection process.

The information from Fuel Poverty Action has been published by a number of different sources and more details can be found here.

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The Confusion of District Heating or Heat Network Tariffs

There was an article published yesterday in the Sutton Guardian ‘Revealed: Leaked confidential documents suggest residents at incinerator linked “eco” village could face sky-high energy prices’ that expressed concerns over the high potential heat tariffs on an upcoming development in Hackbridge, Sutton. This article has highlighted once again the confusion that exists over pricing models for […]

There was an article published yesterday in the Sutton Guardian ‘Revealed: Leaked confidential documents suggest residents at incinerator linked “eco” village could face sky-high energy prices’ that expressed concerns over the high potential heat tariffs on an upcoming development in Hackbridge, Sutton.

This article has highlighted once again the confusion that exists over pricing models for district heating or heat networks.

One important thing to remember is that comparing heat and gas tariffs is not as simple as looking at the tariff per kWh. As highlighted in the Which? report “Turning up the heat: Getting a fair deal for District Heating users” there is no ‘easy-to-use and reliable heat price comparator to allow customers to compare their bills with alternative heating systems.’

This is a particular issue because there is a difference between the a raw fuel, such as gas, that needs converting into heat and only purchasing exactly the amount of heat you need, as is the case with district heating or heat networks. The price per kWh may be higher with a ‘heat tariff’ but the amount used will be considerably lower, offering a potential overall total saving to the consumer.

Also noted in the Which? report is what is included in the charges, especially the fixed charges and whether like-for-like comparison is taking place. A heat network is a maintained system, similar to a warranty or insurance cover on an individual boiler. These maintenance costs also need to be included when comparing costs between systems. From the Sutton Guardian article we do not have this breakdown of what is included within these costs for the heat network development and therefore are unable to make a clear and accurate cost comparison.

Other costs that may be included within a heat tariff relate to a sinking fund for the future replacement of the capital equipment. These ‘fixed’ or overhead costs are allocated across all consumers equally or based on a factor such as property size. This ensures that all consumers contribute equally to the system that they have equal access to. This is often the fairest charging mechanism and helps protect the most vulnerable customers from subsidising others consumption.
Which? have tried to address this knowledge gap and estimated the following overall costs:

  • District Heating: 5.51-14.94 p/kWh
  • Gas Heating: 9.55-11.60 p/kWh
  • Electric Heating: 21.91-22.99 p/kWh

This could place this particular development at the higher end of the district heating scale but firstly we need to fully understand what is included within the heat tariff model.

Finally, one important element that needs to be considered by heat network operators is whether they are installing the most cost effective charging mechanism. This can contribute a large proportion of the fixed costs and is the element most associated with the level of service provision for consumers. Choosing the option that offers long-term ‘best value’ for the end consumers is imperative and can reduce fixed costs by up to a third.

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District Heating in Scotland: Developing Best Practises for Metering and Billing

It was extremely interesting this week for Sycous to attend a roundtable event organised by Changeworks in Edinburgh to discuss district heating and communal heating best practises for metering and billing. A range of stakeholders from Local Authorities and Housing Associations, alongside representatives of the Scottish Government and partnership organisations, came together to share their […]

Scottish Government DecarbonisingIt was extremely interesting this week for Sycous to attend a roundtable event organised by Changeworks in Edinburgh to discuss district heating and communal heating best practises for metering and billing.

A range of stakeholders from Local Authorities and Housing Associations, alongside representatives of the Scottish Government and partnership organisations, came together to share their experiences and knowledge.

This was a perfectly timed with the Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations 2014 and the Scottish Governments continuing commitment to district heating for its potential to combat fuel poverty and provide a low carbon fuel source to homes across Scotland.

The Scottish Government has an ambitious target to achieve 1.5 TWh district heating to be delivered and 40,000 households to be connected to district heating in Scotland by 2020 and a 2050 target to have a largely decarbonised heat sector.

Most important the Scottish Government has developed a framework and vision to achieve this, with the Heat Network Partnership for Scotland District Heating Action Plan. This partnership includes partners such as Scottish Futures Trust, Energy Saving Trust, Scottish Enterprise and Resource Efficient Scotland.

This helps provide a holistic approach to achieving the roll-out of district heating, with finance, project and technical support all being available to develop heat networks.

This finance support includes ‘District Heating Loan’ scheme, ‘Warm Homes Fund’ and ‘Renewable Energy Investment Fund’.
Developing best practises for metering and billing is the latest step in ensuring that targets for district heating and heat networks are achieved in the most sustainable and cost effective manner, representing best long-term value for operators and consumers alike.

The final report from Changeworks is due to be published in May 2015.

In the meantime for further information on developing a robust, cost-effective and sustainable metering and billing strategy please Contact Us.

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Heat Metering and Heat Networks – Shifting the Balance of Power

The Liberal Democrats announced yesterday that they want to “give power back” to consumers, allowing them to change energy suppliers within 24 hours. This is great news for conventional utilities, but what are we doing to empower the quarter of a million people connected to communal and district heating networks? Heat networks connect multiple users to a […]

The Liberal Democrats announced yesterday that they want to “give power back” to consumers, allowing them to change energy suppliers within 24 hours. This is great news for conventional utilities, but what are we doing to empower the quarter of a million people connected to communal and district heating networks?Heat Meter Savings

Heat networks connect multiple users to a single or series of heat sources for their heating and hot water. So they can’t change supplier. A recent Which? consumer survey demonstrated that often these consumers are stuck in a monopoly situation, with poor value, high costs, and no chance of switching.

If “competition, choice and a fair deal for consumers” is going to help all energy users, we need to be smarter as a nation about how we manage these schemes.

Part of that is a drive towards identifying opportunities to reduce costs for consumers and increase the ability to select and switch service providers.

The first step in reducing costs has been highlighted in a Guardian Cities article about the Warsaw District Heating system, “How Warsaw’s district heating system keeps the capital cleaner than Kraków“. Krzysztof Bolesta, an adviser to environment minister Maciej Grabowski, highlighted the important role that heat metering and consumption charging has to play, where “everyone has a meter on the radiator, so if you open the window and you don’t close the radiator, you have to pay, and people know that, so it helps.”

The specific installation here refers to a Heat Cost Allocation system, where costs are retrospectively allocated based on the amount of heat each property receives the benefit of. This is not as common-place in the UK where many consumers and operators prefer a heat meter and pre-agreed tariff. However, the point remains that metering and consumer charging, as required under the Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations 2014, drives consumer behavioural change to reduce consumption and ultimately cost.

But it’s no good tying these metering systems to single providers for decade long contracts, as is commonplace in the UK. If the heat meters on a heat network are not tied to any specific service provider and consumer charging arrangement, then these services can be competitively sourced and switched if heat network consumers receive a low level of service. This then achieves the aim highlighted by most of the political parties, including the Liberal Democrats to “shift the balance of power back in favour of consumers”.

 

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Which District Heating Network Should I Choose?

Well, you can’t choose. This is why organisations involved in building, running and supporting heat networks need to work hard to make sure consumers are treated fairly. Confusion over heating bills. Poor customer services. No consumer protection. Inefficient heating technologies. 40 year contracts. Low customer satisfaction. Feeling ripped off and exploited. We wouldn’t accept this […]

Well, you can’t choose. This is why organisations involved in building, running and supporting heat networks need to work hard to make sure consumers are treated fairly.District Heating

Confusion over heating bills. Poor customer services. No consumer protection. Inefficient heating technologies. 40 year contracts. Low customer satisfaction. Feeling ripped off and exploited. We wouldn’t accept this from any of our other energy supplies, so why is it OK on district heating? These are the results of a recent Which? consumer survey, which highlights everything that’s wrong with the heat network industry in the UK. The problem is that schemes are often not implemented with the consumer in mind.

Metering and billing is often considered last when developing a heat network, but is that right? It’s the main facilitator of a consumer’s interaction with their network. It’s what helps them to know that they are being charged fairly, and openly for what they are using. It’s also the main way that a network operator can easily collect information on their network, so they know how efficient they are being, and how they can use their heat resource more effectively.

Being open and transparent with the data collected from a heat network, and communicating it effectively is the only way to achieve a fair and effective network for both consumer and operator. It’s the way to ensure consumers use networks intelligently and effectively.

The Which? survey shows us that this isn’t being achieved today. Those consumers on fixed charges feel they getting a good deal, because they think they can use as much heat as they need without additional cost. They even openly admit to opening the window to cool down their residence. But there is an immediate environmental cost to this, and it leads to the need for schemes to be oversized for the number of consumers they service. And they pay for it in the long run anyway, when their fixed charge rises the following year to account for the increased energy usage.

Charging for use is the only way to effectively address this. But those consumers on metered schemes feel out of the loop with their networks billing. They’re often unaware of what they’re actually paying for. They don’t know whether they’re getting a fair deal or not.

Understandably, they want a breakdown of the charges that they’re paying. Who wouldn’t? And it’s our responsibility as service providers and network operators to ensure we communicate this effectively. We need to make sure that tariffs are calculated properly, so that consumers are treated fairly, whilst also ensuring schemes are financially sustainable.

For more information on how Sycous helps heat network operators achieve fairness and transparency, please contact our team.

Don’t forget to read the full Which? report “Turning up the heat: Getting a fair deal for District Heating users“.

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Regulation and Crematoriums- Heat networks and district heating in the news this week.

It has been a very busy week for heat networks. We recently completed our first seminar with Sustainable Homes, DECC and the NMO on the new Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations 2014. This was extremely successful and according to feedback from the delegates it was also extremely useful in helping them understand their obligations […]

It has been a very busy week for heat networks.

We recently completed our first seminar with Sustainable Homes, DECC and the NMO on the new Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations 2014. This was extremely successful and according to feedback from the delegates it was also extremely useful in helping them understand their obligations and most importantly, best practise for heat meters.

One of the most interesting and welcome changes was the extension to the notification deadline to the NMO, which has now been extended to December 2016 under the Heat Network (Metering and Billing) (Amendment) Regulations 2015.

The basic summary of this is that heat network operators have been given an extended period of grace from 30th April 2015 to 31st December 2015 to notify the NMO of any heat networks you may be responsible for.

For more information on the regulation, please check out the Sycous Quick Guide or attend our next seminar with Sustainable Homes, DECC and the NMO in Nottingham on Tuesday 12th May 2015. Find more information here.

In other news-

There was an extremely worrying article in the London Evening Standard yesterday (31st March 2015) ‘On the Money: Households face high costs and low satisfaction with district heating’. Interestingly, it is quoted that 100,000 households are connected to a heat network in London alone but following an investigation by Which? there were a number of complaints of ‘unclear billing, making it difficult to work out whether heating costs were fair or accurate, and poor customer service and complaints handling.’

As heat networks grow, with the ultimate aim of supplying 43% of UK heat demand through heat networks by 2050, we will see some very promising heat networks which could improve energy security and reduce fuel poverty, such as the scheme to upgrade or install heat networks across 700 properties in Glasgow by Cube and Scottish Gas.

However, this growth must begin with support for consumers who need to live on heat networks. As much as installing a correctly specified heat network is a great success this must be combined with ensuring consumers and heat network operators remain in control of their operational costs and levels of service. The ability to select service providers, deliver transparency of costs and a robust customer complaint process is paramount to the long-term success of any heat network or district heating scheme.

If an organisation wants to deliver transparency, power to consumers as well as supporting them in understanding heat networks, Sycous can help. We have a range of products and the supporting software to make delivering informative billing and great customer service simple for heat network operators of any size.

Finally-

In Norway the use of waste heat nearly went to another level, with it being reported that a crematorium was looking to connect to the local district heating scheme so that the heat generated could be harnessed. Concerns over the feasibility and the surrounding ethics has led to the connection not taking place, although similar schemes are running successfully in Denmark. It does however raise a number of interesting questions about the opportunities for utilising waste heat in processes we might not initially consider-

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Heat Networks, Heat Metering and Heat Billing Infographic!

  For further information on what impact the Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations 2014 and the Heat Network (Metering and Billing) (Amendment) Regulations 2015 might have on your district heating or communal heating network and whether you actually need to install individual or building-level heat meters… Check out our Quick Guide to the Regs or […]

Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations 2014

 

For further information on what impact the Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations 2014 and the Heat Network (Metering and Billing) (Amendment) Regulations 2015 might have on your district heating or communal heating network and whether you actually need to install individual or building-level heat meters… Check out our Quick Guide to the Regs or Contact Us.

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Increasing the Potential of District Heating by Increasing Capacity

There was a great video released this week from Danfoss Heating about the benefits of differential pressure controllers in a district heating network and a district cooling network. This highlights the importance of delivering to the final customers only the heat or cooling they require to maximise efficiency and minimise operational costs. But what if […]

There was a great video released this week from Danfoss Heating about the benefits of differential pressure controllers in a district heating network and a district cooling network. This highlights the importance of delivering to the final customers only the heat or cooling they require to maximise efficiency and minimise operational costs. But what if you could reduce the amount of peak demand for either heat or cooling by final consumers?

The instant benefit of this is that capacity in the district heating or cooling network is released to allow the connection of a greater number of final consumers to the network. Sycous District Heat Network

This can be achieved in a number of ways but a key element of this is based on knowing and understanding the spare network capacity. In order to fully understand this spare capacity, the use of heat or cooling meters, as well as remote data collection solutions are essential. Utilising high frequency data from these meters allows profiles to be established that can feed into detailed models that develop a greater understanding of consumption and final consumer behaviours.

Once it is established where spare capacity lies it would then be most beneficial to maximise overall efficiencies by looking at where additional connections are possible. For example, if it were highlighted that there is spare capacity available during the day then the connection of an office building or similar would reduce this spare capacity without impacting on the size of plant or distribution network. Alongside this by increasing the overall efficiency of the system the overall cost then becomes lower for all connected customers.

There are also options available to look at ways to reduce and move peak demand to allow for an even greater spare capacity, maximising the potential size of a district heating or cooling network.

This can be achieved by looking at the current behaviour of final consumers, utilising heat and cooling meter data, and developing solutions to alter these behaviour patterns. One important element of doing this is developing an agent-based model. An agent-based model would simulate the expected behaviours of the final consumer, which is likely to vary depending on the type of consumer from residential to retail or industrial. One basic example of this is providing a lower tariff rate during periods of low consumption across the district network to encourage final consumers to shift consumption towards these periods and free up capacity elsewhere in the system.

Sycous are working with a range of partners to look at ways to develop these models and provide the data required to maximise their usefulness. This includes utilising our range of open-protocol metering and data collection solutions that are ideal for high frequency data requirements. Alongside this our data management and billing solution allows for innovative charging mechanisms and informative data provision to impact on the behaviour of the final consumer.

As we develop innovative district heating, cooling and energy solutions, such as the water heat pump scheme in Drammen, Norway and one being progressed in Bristol with a Memorandum of Understanding signed by Bristol City Council, the University of Bristol and University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, we need to look at ways to maximise the total capacity of these energy networks. This includes seeking out more innovative ways to increase the potential capacity and not by installing bigger and greater numbers of generation sources.

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District Heating, District Energy and the Power of Local Government

It is sometimes important to take a step back and look to see the innovation and positive, maturing steps being taken within the district energy and district heating market across the world. The recent publication of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) ‘District Energy in Cities: Unlocking the Potential of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy‘ […]

It is sometimes important to take a step back and look to see the innovation and positive, maturing steps being taken within the district energy and district heating market across the world.

The recent publication of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) ‘District Energy in Cities: Unlocking the Potential of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy‘ seeks to highlight these innovations but also the future potential of district energy and district heating.

This publication champions the power of cities as representatives of ‘more than 70 per cent of global energy demand’, making them the key to unlocking the ‘integrated solutions necessary to rapidly advance both energy efficiency and renewable energy’.

In many ways we are seeing this begin to take place in the UK with cities and local government across the UK capitalising on their positions of authority in planning, regulation and even as enormous consumers of energy to push district energy and district heating as a policy agenda.

This has most recently been seen in Glasgow, home of Scotland’s only metro system, which is utilising waste water leaking into the Victorian tunnels into a heat source. This not only has the benefit of generating efficient heat but also contributes towards reduced maintenance costs for the tunnel.

As part of the UNEP publication it is interesting to note that of the 45 champion cities, which includes London and Aberdeen, 96% of those cities are proactively creating planning policy and local regulations to promote district energy and district heating roll-out across their cities. Local governments were also ‘ranked as the “most important” actor in catalysing investment in district energy systems, playing a central role in addressing the associated risks and costs’.

However, a major factor in enabling cities to become beacons of district energy and district heating integration and deployment is national-level support and policy. It is interesting to note the four national policies described as having the greatest impact were:

  • Incentives for CHP and renewables
  • National regulation on tariffs
  • Incorporation of district energy into building efficiency standards and labels
  • Tax regimes, alongside clear planning guidance and regulations that provide local governments with a mandate to act.

However, one item missing and it is something that I’ve discussed extensively recently – an integrated policy approach and this is one area which must be improved in the UK if we are to achieve the target of district heating or heat networks to meet 43% of UK heat demand by 2050.

One very recent example of a mismatched national policy is the Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations 2014, which state that new connections to a district heat network must then install individual heat meters but if buildings are on a communal heating network this requirement does not exist. Does this national policy and regulation really support the inter-connection of buildings to create district heat networks?

Another example has been highlighted by the UK District Energy Association (UKDEA) and their article on ‘Another missed opportunity for low carbon heat networks? DECC’s Delivering UK Investment in Networks‘ which highlights a misfit between the DECC Heat Network Delivery Unit (HNDU) feasibility funding for local authorities, which supports the central role of local authorities in the deployment of district heating or heat networks and the lack of capital funding to actually then develop and make these ‘feasible’ schemes a reality.

Whilst district heating and district energy is ‘coming of age’ in the UK and doing so quite rapidly, this must be supported on a national level through consistent policies that meet the needs of local government, enabling them to become the catalyst which achieves our long-term ambitions for district heating across the UK.

 

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Join us, DECC, the NMO and Sustainable Homes to find out more about Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations 2014.

Sycous will be speaking at an upcoming Sustainable Homes event on the Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations 2014. We will be presenting alongside a panel from the Department of Energy and Climate Change, the National Measurement Office, Sustainable Homes and Catalyst Housing. This presents an opportunity to understand the regulations, the viability tool and […]

Sycous will be speaking at an upcoming Sustainable Homes event on the Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations 2014. We will be presenting alongside a panel from the Department of Energy and Climate Change, the National Measurement Office, Sustainable Homes and Catalyst Housing.Email-Advert-Sustainable

This presents an opportunity to understand the regulations, the viability tool and what impact it could have on your district or communal heat network.

We will also be discussing recent innovations that we have developed as part of the DECC Heat Network Innovation Competition, where Sycous was successful in securing funding to help improve the consumer and operator experience of Heat Networks.

It is essential that heat network operators secure ‘best value’ for their final customers and the most secure and sustainable ‘open-protocol’ metering and billing solution. We will be detailing how this can be achieved, alongside our experiences and case studies.

The event will be taking place on Tuesday 24th March at 10am in London.

For more details and to book your place, click here.

Can’t make this event? Don’t worry, we will be announcing details of our next event with Sustainable Homes shortly and we are presenting at the Association of Gas Safety Managers Annual Conference in April.

Alternatively, just Contact our Team who will be happy to answer any questions you may have on the regulations and developing a robust metering and charging strategy.

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Consumer Experiences of Heat Networks – Looking at it from Both Sides

I am amazed to see solutions and products available that fail on one fundamental point – to meet the requirements of their target market. This is especially true with Heat Networks, for the moment at least. More often than not compromises are made during planning, development, construction, as well as throughout the life of a […]

I am amazed to see solutions and products available that fail on one fundamental point – to meet the requirements of their target market.

This is especially true with Heat Networks, for the moment at least.

More often than not compromises are made during planning, development, construction, as well as throughout the life of a scheme, to the detriment of the ultimate final customer – the consumer (aka the one paying). This is often down to a lack of understanding of the consumers requirements, both direct and indirect.

During the course of any product or service development exercise, these requirements should be used as the fundamental buildings blocks that decisions can be made against.

What is the easiest way to understand these requirements? To ask, understand and engage. The answers might not always reflect every consumer’s opinion but it certainly provides invaluable insight.
This is what we have done with the development of mySycous, we have spoken, understood and engaged with consumers at every step of the process and with each new release we make. This ensures that we understand their point of view and provide functionality and experiences that benefits them and their peers.

mySycous has been designed for energy and utility billing. Mostly this is on district heating systems or heat networks, where consumers are already confused with the idea of ‘heat billing’ so require additional assistance in managing their district heating costs.

The Sycous team have spoken to existing district heating consumers, including those who currently have heat meters installed and those who may need to have a heat meter installed under the Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations 2014. We have also visited countries across Europe where heat billing is very much norm.

This exercise in understanding consumer requirements has provided knowledge and ideas that run throughout the mySycous metering and billing system. This includes functionality that improves the consumers understanding of their energy costs and the ability to set spending limits to always remain in control.

We are now working on our next stage developments to further remove the need for any stakeholder to compromise on their heat network metering and billing solution.

For more information on the mySycous metering and billing system, or to contribute your ideas, please Contact our Team.

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Communal Heating and District Heating – What”s the Difference?

Probably the first question many would ask is whether it matters? Most of the time the answer is it doesn’t. However, with the Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations 2014, together with the supporting scope document from the National Measurement Office (NMO) these definitions define whether a heat network operator must install individual heat meters. […]

Probably the first question many would ask is whether it matters? Most of the time the answer is it doesn’t.

However, with the Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations 2014, together with the supporting scope document from the National Measurement Office (NMO) these definitions define whether a heat network operator must install individual heat meters.

So what are the ‘official’ definitions?

District Heating or District Heat Network – This is where thermal energy is distributed from a central source of generation to multiple buildings or sites. The minimum size of a district heat network is two buildings and one final customer.

Communal Heating or Communal Heat Network – This is where thermal energy from a central source in a building is distributed only within that one building. The minimum size of a communal heat network is two final customers.

Why do the definitions matter?

These definitions decide what actions you need to undertake in relation to installing building level and individual heat meters.

Whether you have a District Heat Network or Communal Heat Network-

You must complete a notification to the NMO on or before the 30th April 2015 and then at least every 4 years and any new builds completed after the 30th April 2015 must notify the NMO on or before it commences operation.

If you have a District Heat Network-

Building level metering is required from 18th December 2014. Looking for building level meters? Check out the Sycous Ultrasonic Commercial Heat Meter, MID Class 2 and suitable for RHI installations!

For any district heat network connection to a newly constructed building, or where a major renovation of a building on a district heating network takes place after the 18th December 2014 then individual heat meters must be fitted. If this doesn’t occur then there is a requirement to undertake heat metering viability assessments and if viable install heat meters, by the 31st December 2016. This viability assessment must be repeated every 4 years. But don’t worry Sycous offer a perfect turn-key solution combining compact heat meters, an open-protocol data collection system and a fully functional consumer and billing management system!

If you have meters installed then you must meet the minimum billing requirements, for more information, Contact Us.

If you have a Communal Heat Network-

Building level metering won’t be required unless there are multiple buildings from the same source of thermal energy generation then this is a District Heat Network!

There is no mandatory requirement to install individual heat meters on major renovation or new connection.

There is a requirement to undertake heat metering viability assessments and if viable install heat meters, by the 31st December 2016. This viability assessment must be repeated every 4 years. But don’t worry Sycous offer a perfect turn-key solution combining compact heat meters, an open-protocol data collection system and a fully functional consumer and billing management system!

If you have meters installed then you must meet the minimum billing requirements, for more information, Contact Us.

Confused yet?

I wouldn’t be surprised.

Sycous are here to help, whether it is helping complete notifications and viability assessments, or looking at the best metering and charging strategy for your heat network- Just Contact our Team.

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Our 2015 Heat Meter Price List

We are pleased to release our latest heat meter price list. All our Heat Meters are Ultrasonic, MID Class 2 and are ideal for Domestic and Non-Domestic RHI Installations. Best of all our heat meters come with both Pulse and MBus outputs as standard. Ultrasonic C5 Heat Meter The ideal meter for all domestic installations- […]

We are pleased to release our latest heat meter price list.

All our Heat Meters are Ultrasonic, MID Class 2 and are ideal for Domestic and Non-Domestic RHI Installations. Best of all our heat meters come with both Pulse and MBus outputs as standard.

Ultrasonic C5 Heat Meterzelsius_C5_IUF

The ideal meter for all domestic installations- Download the Data Sheet and check out the prices below.

Meter Size Price (exc VAT) Connection Type
15mm Qp0.6 £130.00 Screwed
15mm Qp1.5 £130.00 Screwed
20mm Qp2.5 £132.00 Screwed

 

Ultrasonic WR3 Heat MeterSycous-WR3-Ultrasonic-Heat-Meter-150x141

The ideal meter for all commercial installations- Download the Data Sheet and check out the prices below.

Meter Size Price (exc VAT) Connection Type
25mm Qp3.5 £280.00 Screwed
25mm Qp6 £325.00 Screwed
40mm Qp10 £442.00 Screwed
50mm Qp15 £560.00 Flanged
65mm Qp25 £732.00 Flanged
80mm Qp40 £803.00 Flanged
100mm Qp60 £931.00 Flanged

 

All our Screwed connection meters come with the following accessories:

  • Temperature Sensors/Probes
  • Temperature Sensors/Probes Pocket or Ball Valve
  • Couplings

All our Flanged connection meters come with the following accessories:

  • Temperature Sensors/Probes
  • Temperature Sensors/Probes Pockets

For more information and to place your order for next day delivery on all stock items, please Contact Us today.

 

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When Will We Learn… District Heating the Right Way

An absolutely brilliant article in Business Green this week ‘Living with district heating – 10 lessons for a fledgling green industry’. These ten lessons, which can appear to just be common sense, offer an insight into many of the real experiences consumers feel and often lead them to become disheartened with district heating. Interestingly this […]

An absolutely brilliant article in Business Green this week ‘Living with district heating – 10 lessons for a fledgling green industry’.

These ten lessons, which can appear to just be common sense, offer an insight into many of the real experiences consumers feel and often lead them to become disheartened with district heating.

Interestingly this article includes a number of issues surrounding the on-going administration of heat networks, especially in terms of their heat billing cost models. A misunderstood or badly developed cost model can risk tenants overpaying for maintenance and lead to costs that ‘nobody seems to know how to control’.

One common theme across all these lessons is communication and ensuring that communication includes the ultimate end-consumer. This is especially important as older schemes are upgraded under the Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations 2014. These consumers in particular will likely need to adapt their behaviour to ensure they can financially benefit for paying fairly for only what they use based on an installed heat meter. In order to achieve these savings meaningful, honest and direct communication is essential.

This is something that Sycous have attempted to address across all the schemes we work on and is a focus of our innovative mySycous data management and billing solution, which has recently been successful in phase 1 of the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) Heat Network Innovation competition.

This communication is often tailored to the requirements of the development and driven by the needs of the consumers. This can include attendance at community events, one-to-one information sessions and online and paper tenancy booklets.

If you would like to find out more about the Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations 2014 and about how Sycous can improve the level of service to your consumers, whilst looking to reduce costs, then Contact Us.

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Flat Rate Heat Charges in Disguise! The Increasing Proportion of Administration and Standing Charges

The introduction of the Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations 2014 mandate the requirement for individual heat meters in properties connected to a district heating or heat network. This provides the potential for consumers to take control of their heat billing costs and make real savings. Alongside this there is the opportunity for heat network […]

The introduction of the Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations 2014 mandate the requirement for individual heat meters in properties connected to a district heating or heat network. This provides the potential for consumers to take control of their heat billing costs and make real savings.

Alongside this there is the opportunity for heat network operators to monitor heat networks more effectively and be proactive in maximising their efficiency, benefiting consumers with lower variable or kWh charges.

However, one gremlin still appears to be standing in the way- excessive and fixed standing charges. Consumers can reduce your heat and hot water consumption but the fixed charges remain fixed.

I am not proposing that we should remove all fixed charges. Proportionate fixed charges can have a positive impact in terms of transparency of cost, ensure a fair contribution from all consumers towards to availability of a heat network and can help ensure vulnerable consumers, who may consume the most, do not subsidise the costs of other consumers etc.

The issue with these charges, especially with a heat meter installed, is that quite often they can be excessive. I have seen a recent example where the fixed element was twice the consumption element over an annual period for the majority of properties heat network cost and the system was not even being operated very efficiently.

There seems to be a slowly increasing focus of heat network operators to improve the efficiency of their heat networks with better installed, commissioned and operated generation and distribution technologies. But work to ensure consumers receive ‘best value’ across all elements of their charges largely remains a pipe dream-

One element of these fixed that could be addressed very quickly is the ‘administration’ element. This can account for over 10% of a consumer’s annual bill and an even larger proportion of their standing charge. As consumers reduce their consumption through behavioural change, improved building efficiencies etc. the proportion of their annual district heating bill or heat network bill that comes from ‘administration’ increases.

Heat network operators need to look at these fixed elements, such as ‘administration’ and ensure they are offering ‘best value’. Often this failure to achieve ‘best value’ comes from a lack of metering and charging strategy being in place prior to development of a heat network, or installation of heat meters. This can lead to long contracts with abysmal levels of service and no option to switch – the heat network operator and their consumers are tied into high charges that offer no value.

If we really want heat networks account to supply 43% of heat demand by 2050 we must capitalise on legislation such as the Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations 2014 and ensure consumers receive true value and we don’t head towards high fixed charges that end up being flat rate charges in disguise.

For more information on how Sycous can help develop your Heat Metering and Charging Strategy as well as ensure compliance to the Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations 2014 please Contact Us.

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Heat Meters: A Catalyst for Behavioural Change

Firstly, I would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year from all of the Sycous team. We have recently been completing the implementation of the mySycous data management and billing application for a number of heat network operators. One thing that has come out of our discussions is how little understanding there is of […]

Firstly, I would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year from all of the Sycous team.

We have recently been completing the implementation of the mySycous data management and billing application for a number of heat network operators. One thing that has come out of our discussions is how little understanding there is of a heat meter, its uses and capabilities.

Heat network operators working on schemes ranging from small communal heating to large-scale district heating systems, often only see a heat meter as a simple charging mechanism for heat billing.zelsius_C5_IUF

The heat meter is so much more, especially when combined with a remote or automatic meter reading and data management system.

The heat meter is the long-term efficiency monitoring tool for your heat network, recording and providing data on temperatures, flow rates, peak demand etc. at high time frequencies. All of this data enables you to quickly review your heat network, ensuring it is working at maximum efficiency, quickly identifying potential maintenance issues and areas for improvement.

A domestic dwelling with a heat meter installed is estimated to use 25-45% less heat energy than a similar dwelling without a heat meter and with ‘in-home displays’ providing real-time information on consumption, consumers are then more empowered than ever to monitor their energy use.

All of this data being shared in real-time isn’t providing a direct incentive for consumers to change their consumption habits, just reduce their own consumption. However, there is only so much reduction that can take place before it impacts on lifestyle and comfortable living conditions. It’s also very much an individual action to reduce personal consumption, which may have a negligible or in rare cases even negative impact on the overall heat network efficiency.

But there is the potential for even more. The heat meter could become a catalyst for consumer behavioural change. The data received back from heat meters and provided to consumers in real-time, could be used to identify periods of low system efficiency and offer monetary discounts or other incentives to increase that level of efficiency. This encourages consumers to work collectively to improve the overall heat network efficiencies, rather than as an individual.

With any such idea as these, consumer feedback is key and the idea is to encourage and incentivising positive consumption behaviour.

We are currently looking at a number of possibilities to maximise the efficiency of heat networks and their component elements, including generation and distribution technologies. For more information, or to share your ideas and thoughts, please Contact Us.

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What”s an ESCROW and Why Does Sycous Offer an ESCROW?

At Sycous we value our clients and work hard to both deliver solutions which meet your key business requirements and build strong relationships based on trust. We recognise that we have a responsibility to help you ensure the long term performance and availability of all our solutions, including the mySycous application and ultimately, to assure […]

At Sycous we value our clients and work hard to both deliver solutions which meet your key business requirements and build strong relationships based on trust.

We recognise that we have a responsibility to help you ensure the long term performance and availability of all our solutions, including the mySycous application and ultimately, to assure your business continuity.

That’s why we are working in partnership with global information assurance provider NCC Group, to offer your business continuity protection through an escrow agreement.

NCC Group currently protects over 9,000 business critical software applications under comprehensive escrow agreements, on the behalf of licensees worldwide.

Under the terms of our escrow agreement we will supply NCC Group with a copy of the source code for the mySycous application, which they will hold securely on your behalf. This will be updated at regular agreed intervals to ensure the source code held is always up to date and reflects the current version of your application.

In the extremely unlikely event that we ever become unable to meet our contractual obligations, NCC Group will release the source code to you. Once released, you can then maintain the application, working from the original source code, whether that be in-house or by engaging with another supplier.

To find out more about the mySycous Software ESCROW, please Contact our team.

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Sharing the Joys at Christmas

Well Christmas has come around very quickly again and the team at Sycous is looking forward to a well earned break. However, this is not the time to forget some of the hardships and difficulties facing others within our communities, such as those experiencing fuel poverty and struggling to manage ever tightening budgets. Hopefully one […]

Well Christmas has come around very quickly again and the team at Sycous is looking forward to a well earned break.

However, this is not the time to forget some of the hardships and difficulties facing others within our communities, such as those experiencing fuel poverty and struggling to manage ever tightening budgets.

Hopefully one recent change in legislation, the Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations 2014, will over the coming years have some impact in alleviating fuel poverty. These regulations will help those connected to heat networks or district heating schemes reduce their energy consumption and hopefully see a monetary benefit for doing so.

We will also be releasing details in the new year one of the most exciting projects we have ever been a part of. This project has the potential to change the way heat networks are metered and billed, focusing on the end-consumer and delivering heat in increasingly intelligent ways. We cannot wait to release the details…

Finally, on behalf of the Sycous team, I would like to wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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“A Customer Is for Life, Not Just for Christmas” – Reduce Their District Heating Costs

No truer words have ever been spoken, especially in relation to district heating and heat networks. Consumers often do not have the ability to switch their energy or heat network operator and as a result they can be especially concerned when they feel their bills are too expensive or feel that they are not being […]

No truer words have ever been spoken, especially in relation to district heating and heat networks.

Consumers often do not have the ability to switch their energy or heat network operator and as a result they can be especially concerned when they feel their bills are too expensive or feel that they are not being treated fairly.

Energy and heat network operators need to continuously review their suppliers and service providers to ensure best value is delivered for all connected consumers.

One area which is sometimes overlooked is in regards to billing and this is where mySycous comes in.

mySycous allows heat and energy network operators to provide an automated meter data management (MDM) and billing application ‘in house’ for a considerably lower cost than outsourcing.

This allows energy and heat network operators to utilise their ‘in-house’ specialists, whether it’s maintenance and technical or financial expertise.

The automating of data management, validation and billing functionality allows for management by exception, ensuring the most efficient utilisation of resources. This not only allows for an exceptional levels of customer service but also reduces costs that would otherwise be passed onto the consumer.

Other benefits include the ability to offer all consumers online account management, with an App coming shortly. This is provided at no additional cost but can save you printing, postage, time as well as many other costs. These savings can also be passed onto consumers and not an outsourcing company’s profit margin!

mySycous is simple, cost effective and requires no specific hardware or software.

Give your district heating consumers a gift this Christmas, Contact our Team start saving them money!

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7 Tips for Achieving Great Customer Service in Energy and Heat Network Billing

I won’t go into the basics of great customer service but here are the Sycous 7 Tips for Achieving Great Customer Service specifically for organisations undertaking energy and heat billing: Consumers often don’t understand if their energy is not supplied by one of the main utility companies – always start by explaining the supply and […]

I won’t go into the basics of great customer service but here are the Sycous 7 Tips for Achieving Great Customer Service specifically for organisations undertaking energy and heat billing:

  1. Consumers often don’t understand if their energy is not supplied by one of the main utility companies – always start by explaining the supply and how it works.
  2. Consumers will always ask – can they switch suppliers? Often on energy and heat networks the answer is no, so always have an FAQ document handy and available to send them to fully explain.
  3. When helping consumers find their meters, especially heat meters, have a picture of the meters installed, as well as likely installation locations, they have probably seen the meter but not realised what it is.
  4. Always know the simple over-consumption checks, such as the ‘Zero’ test, turn all connected appliances off, read the meter and wait a period of time and check if the meter has advanced.
  5. When a new consumer moves onto an energy or heat network, ensure they are provided all ‘key fact’ information on the energy or heat supply, tariff and billing information, as well as instruction manuals for the heating controls.
  6. Provide accessible information facilities that can be immediately updated or shared to notify consumers of any emergency maintenance information, a great choice can be Social Media.
  7. Understand the basics of any lease agreements for leaseholder properties as more likely than not they contain the key information relating to the heat or energy network supply.

Sycous can support you in achieving unbeatable Customer Service with the mySycous application. Find out more about mySycous and Contact our Team ASAP!

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Making “Big Data” from Smart Meters Manageable with Automatic Data Validation

The data from smart meters, such as heat meters or electricity meters, can prove unmanageable for many energy and heat network operators, who are often housing providers, property management companies or private landlords; not large utility providers. Sycous are able to help make smart meter ‘big data’ manageable with the mySycous meter data management (MDM) […]

The data from smart meters, such as heat meters or electricity meters, can prove unmanageable for many energy and heat network operators, who are often housing providers, property management companies or private landlords; not large utility providers.

Sycous are able to help make smart meter ‘big data’ manageable with the mySycous meter data management (MDM) and billing application.

mySycous provides automated validation on all smart meter data, received on any frequency from two-minutely to monthly. We also don’t just validate on the actual meter read, we validate on all available meter data.

For example, heat meters connected through an MBus or Wireless-MBus (WMBus) data collection system can return detailed information on flow and return temperatures, flow rates, error codes and much more. All this data can form part of the mySycous data validation process.

This allows the small number of potential issues to be highlighted and easily managed by the energy and heat network operator.

mySycous provides four levels of automated validation:

  1. Fundamental Validation – Checking the key meter information is viable and can be associated with a meter in the client database.
  2. Core Validation – Checking the meter data is viable based for the consumer account currently linked to the meter.
  3. Mandatory Validation – Checking all meter data, not just the reading, achieves a minimum set of requirements.
  4. Customisable Validation – This allows for a range of client specific rules to highlight specific requirements, such as high consumers that may require energy efficiency advice. These can be set-up with our client training team.

Arrange a Demo of the mySycous application, or Contact a member of our team, to find out more.

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Are you sure your Heat Meter is MID Approved?

Our technical team have become increasingly concerned over the installation of heat meters on heat networks and district heating systems where only one temperature sensor has been installed in a ‘dry’ pocket or sleeve, such as the one shown in Fig. A. This can sometimes be unintentional through the use of domestic or compact heat […]

Our technical team have become increasingly concerned over the installation of heat meters on heat networks and district heating systems where only one temperature sensor has been installed in a ‘dry’ pocket or sleeve, such as the one shown in Fig. A.

Fig. A - Dry Temperature Pocket

Fig. A – Dry Temperature Pocket

This can sometimes be unintentional through the use of domestic or compact heat meters where one temperature sensor is integral to the flow tube and the other temperature sensor is installed in a ‘dry’ pocket for ease of ongoing maintenance of the district heating metering system.

Where one temperature pocket is ‘wet’ or immersed and the other is in a ‘dry’ pocket, it is likely that the heat meter installation will NOT be MID approved. This is even the case if the heat meter is a MID approved heat meter, because the application means the temperature sensors do not have the same installation conditions and therefore are not in line with the metrological requirements under EN1434.

Our Technical Team contacted a number of meter manufacturers who are responsible for ensuring the conformity of their products, including ZENNER International, who confirmed this application is “not according to the EN1434, which is actually the basis for MID”.

Any heat meter that is not MID approved cannot be used for RHI or fiscal billing purposes, including domestic billing. This is especially important with the recent publication of the UK Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations 2014 and the appointment of the National Measurement Office (NMO) as the scheme administrator and enforcing authority. Hopefully this recent change will improve the quality of metering installations and understanding of MID approval.

Fig. B - Sycous Ball Valve with 'wet' sensor socket

Fig. B – Sycous Ball Valve with ‘wet’ sensor socket

There is a simple solution that offers the same benefit of ‘dry’ pockets, whilst maintaining accurate temperature measurement and the MID approval for the heat meter and application. Sycous offer a ball valve with a ‘wet’ temperature sensor socket, enabling direct immersion to meet MID approval, please see Fig. B. This solution also provides a simple means of safe isolation for temperature sensor replacement without water waste so maintains all the benefits of a ‘dry’ pocket.

The use of ‘dry’ temperature pockets is completely acceptable when both the flow and return temperature sensors are installed into ‘dry’ pockets.

If you are in doubt over whether your metering installation is MID Approved for RHI and fiscal or consumer billing purposes, Contact Us and we will be happy to help.

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Evaluating the Success of Energy Saving Measures? Why Degree Days Matter

Degree days are basically a type of weather data that are calculated based on readings of outside air temperature and compared against a base temperature. The theory is that heating demand will vary according to the outside air temperature, which is why heating consumption can vary so much year on year. This is not helpful […]

Degree days are basically a type of weather data that are calculated based on readings of outside air temperature and compared against a base temperature.

The theory is that heating demand will vary according to the outside air temperature, which is why heating consumption can vary so much year on year. This is not helpful when evaluating whether energy saving measures have been successful.

If you are comparing two sets of consumption data but the outside air temperature varies, you will not be comparing ‘like for like’. This could lead to inaccurate conclusions on the effectiveness of measures.

To avoid this issue the consumption data must be normalised based on outside air temperature. This is called ‘weather normalisation’ or ‘weather correction’ and allows for a like-to-like comparison of consumption, excluding any weather or outside air temperature influence.

This is where degree days come in. Degree days are based on a ‘base temperature’, usually 15.5°c, any variation from this temperature is then used to calculate a number of degree days.

The actual calculation of degree days is extremely complex as outside air temperatures vary throughout a day but degree day data is readily available online.

The simplest calculation to utilise degree days is to calculate the energy consumption per degree day for each consumption figure in a data set. This is achieved by simply dividing each consumption figure by the number of degree days in the period over which that energy was consumed. This will then provide a basic normalised level of consumption data, excluding any outside air temperature differences.

For example, in the table below the total level of consumption has increased in the second period but the outside air temperature was much lower and taking that into account using the degree days for the period we are able to demonstrate that normalised consumption actually fell.

Time Period Consumption Heating Degree Days Normalised Consumption
Sept 11 – Mar 2012 100,000 kWh 500 200
Sept 12 – Mar 2013 120,000 kWh 800 150

 

There are a number of alternative ways degree days, including linear regression analysis and baseload separation

The issues associated with degree day analysis are widely published online but one common issue is ensuring the accuracy and timing of meter readings to allow an appropriate comparison of consumption. This can be resolved to a large degree using a Remote Meter Reading system. A remote or automatic meter reading system can collect meter readings at intervals as frequently as every 2 minutes to ensure the highest levels of accuracy when undertaking degree day analysis.

Check out the Sycous range of Data Collection solutions or Contact our team for further information.

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Getting Cold but Worried About your District Heating Bill?

Once again at this time of year we begin to see a renewed focus from the media on the plight of those in fuel poverty. It is unimaginable for many to make a choice between keeping warm and other essentials but it is becoming far too common in the UK. This plight has been taken […]

Once again at this time of year we begin to see a renewed focus from the media on the plight of those in fuel poverty. It is unimaginable for many to make a choice between keeping warm and other essentials but it is becoming far too common in the UK.

This plight has been taken up by all political parties but with little tangible results or comprehensive plans to eradicate.

One solution is the use of renewable solutions, such as heat networks or district heating. This technology allows heat to be centrally generated and distributed through a network of pipes to individual properties.

Central heat generation can utilise a renewable source, such as heat pumps, biomass, CHP or energy from waste but can also be fuelled, or backed-up, by non-renewable sources such as gas boilers.

Historically, district heating was installed as a one-pipe system, where consumers paid a fixed amount and were not metered for their consumption. This led to massive levels of waste, spiralling costs as energy costs increased and consumers were left exposed with little ability to control or reduce their consumption.

Times have changed. Heat networks have been upgraded and new heat networks installed with heat meters and heating controls.

Heat meters now allow consumers to monitor what they use and only pay for what they use. Heating controls allow consumers to control and reduce their consumption.

This means that it is very important that consumers are aware of how to monitor their consumption by reading their heat meter and how to control their district heating system.

Heating controls, especially for vulnerable consumers, can seem complex and overwhelming to change, leading to systems being used inefficiently to the cost of the consumer. This must be addressed through community engagement and education, supporting those on heat networks, as well as any other heating system, to use their heating system and controls in the most efficient manner for their lifestyle.

This will empower them to take control of their district heating costs.

Sycous can also help. We have a range of free resources available to engage with consumers and help them understand heat networks and heating controls. Contact Us for further information.

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Lest We Forget

We have broken our weekly blogs to commemorate the eleventh hour on the eleventh day on the eleventh month, 1918 – Armistice Day – the day the First World War officially ended. And today we are remembering those who have been affected in all conflicts – ‘Lest We Forget’ http://www.britishlegion.org.uk/get-involved/how-to-give With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her […]

We have broken our weekly blogs to commemorate the eleventh hour on the eleventh day on the eleventh month, 1918 – Armistice Day – the day the First World War officially ended.

And today we are remembering those who have been affected in all conflicts – ‘Lest We Forget’

http://www.britishlegion.org.uk/get-involved/how-to-give


With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,

England mourns for her dead across the sea.

Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,

Fallen in the cause of the free.

 

Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal

Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.

There is music in the midst of desolation

And a glory that shines upon our tears.

 

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,

Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.

They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,

They fell with their faces to the foe.

 

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.

 

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;

They sit no more at familiar tables of home;

They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;

They sleep beyond England’s foam.

 

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,

Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,

To the innermost heart of their own land they are known

As the stars are known to the Night;

 

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,

Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,

As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,

To the end, to the end, they remain.

 

‘For the Fallen’ by Laurence Binyon

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Choosing the Right Communication Method for Meter Data Collection

Well there is certainly plenty of choice available, maybe a little too much choice. One of the most common issues faced by any energy network designer, installer or operator when selecting a remote or automatic meter reading system is which data system or meter output to choose? Sycous have attempted to demystify the main range […]

Well there is certainly plenty of choice available, maybe a little too much choice.

One of the most common issues faced by any energy network designer, installer or operator when selecting a remote or automatic meter reading system is which data system or meter output to choose?

Sycous have attempted to demystify the main range of available outputs, along with some lesser known ones, to provide a comprehensive Quick Guide covering the following meter outputs:

  • GSM/GPRS/3G/4G
  • MBus/WMbus
  • Pulse/Radio Frequency (RF)
  • Analogue 0-10mA/ Analogue 4-20mA
  • BACnet®
  • Digital Loop Carrier (DLC)
  • TCP/IP
  • Local Operating Network (LON)
  • Modbus RS232/RS485
  • SIOX
  • ZigBee

Find out more on all these outputs here.

The key point to remember is that you should always choose a meter output that is ‘open-protocol’. This means you will not be tied into any meter manufacturer or supplier. A ‘closed-protocol’ output or system is where only the supplier or manufacturer can operate, or provide proprietary hardware and software to operate.

Whichever meter output you choose, it is imperative that other connected devices, such as data collectors, are also ‘open-protocol’. If this is not the case then only the supplier or manufacturer would be able to operate/maintain, or provide licensed proprietary hardware or software.

If you are still unsure of the difference between MBus and MODBUS, Contact Us to speak to a member of our Technical Team, or check out the Sycous Metering Range.

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Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween from the Sycous Team!

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WRAS – What You Need to Know

When we talk about Cold Water the first thing I think about is whether a product is WRAS approved, whether I’m looking at installing fittings or even just my PTFE tape. WRAS and the safety of drinking water seem to go hand-in-hand. However, it is worth remembering that WRAS or The Water Regulations Advisory Scheme […]

When we talk about Cold Water the first thing I think about is whether a product is WRAS approved, whether I’m looking at installing fittings or even just my PTFE tape.

WRAS and the safety of drinking water seem to go hand-in-hand. However, it is worth remembering that WRAS or The Water Regulations Advisory Scheme (WRAS) is actually a conformance mark.

WRAS is designed to ensure all applicable products and materials used in the supply of wholesome water by a water undertaker conform to the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations 1999 and Byelaws 2000 in Scotland.

It should be noted that using non-WRAS approved products is not illegal but compliance with the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations 1999 must be established and agreed, prior to installation.

WRAS approval may not be required where the product is not used in domestic or food production applications and therefore presents no risk to human health, such as in industrial machine applications.

Is there a standard across EU countries?

Although there is no EU-wide Directive, the requirements of the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations 1999 require all products to be “of an appropriate quality and standard” which is defined as:

  • bears an appropriate CE marking in accordance with the Directive;
  • conforms to an appropriate harmonised standard or European technical approval;
  • conforms to an appropriate British Standard or some other national specification of an EEA State which provides an equivalent level of protection and performance; or
  • conforms to a specification approved by the regulator.

This means that any CE marked product that also conforms to an appropriate British standard, or an equivalent EEA State standard would be suitable for use in all WRAS applications, under the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations 1999.

Check out the range of Sycous WRAS Approved Products along with our full range of Cold Water Meters and Hot Water Meters.

 

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The Sycous Quick Guide to MID Approval for Metering

The Measuring Instruments Directive, or MID as it is commonly known, has become synonymous with metering. This is especially the case with heat meters, driven by the metering requirements of non-domestic RHI for MID Class 2 meters to be installed. However, very few actually understand what MID is all about. MID is a European directive […]

The Measuring Instruments Directive, or MID as it is commonly known, has become synonymous with metering.

This is especially the case with heat meters, driven by the metering requirements of non-domestic RHI for MID Class 2 meters to be installed.

However, very few actually understand what MID is all about. MID is a European directive (2004/22/EC) that harmonises the requirements of 10 different measuring instrument types, including gas, electricity, water and heat meters.

MID approved meters, which include primary and secondary sub-meters, must satisfy specific conformity assessment procedures and have MID markings which allow the instruments to be used for fiscal billing purposes in any EU member state.

Meters already installed, that were approved under UK National legislation prior to October 2006 may remain installed indefinitely, as long as they are measuring accurately. Any new meter manufactured and approved after October 2006 must be approved under the MID regulations.

It is a criminal offence to use a non-approved meter for fiscal billing purposes, carrying a potential fine of £1,000 per non-MID meter. A consumer is also within their rights to refuse payment on a non-MID meter.


How do I know my meter is MID Approved?

All MID approved meters will be stamped with a MID Approval Mark, as shown in the image below.

MID-Approval-Format

The MID Approval Mark will be made up on the CE or EU Consumer Safety Directive Compliance mark followed by the MID ‘M’ metrology mark, plus 2-digit year of manufacture and finally a 4 digit Approving Notified Body reference number.


If you are unsure about whether your installed meters are MID Approved, please Contact Us to arrange a survey and check out the Sycous range of MID Approved Meters.

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Why Do Heat Networks Provide Energy Security?

One of the most thought provoking quotes of recent times has come from outgoing EU Energy Commissioner, Günther Oettinger. In a speech to the EU Parliament, in reference to Russia and the crisis in Ukraine, Oettinger spoke of how ‘gas can be used as a weapon and no longer be delivered’. Admittedly in the UK […]

One of the most thought provoking quotes of recent times has come from outgoing EU Energy Commissioner, Günther Oettinger. In a speech to the EU Parliament, in reference to Russia and the crisis in Ukraine, Oettinger spoke of how ‘gas can be used as a weapon and no longer be delivered’.

Admittedly in the UK we do not import the same quantity of gas as our European counterparts, relying instead on the finite and ever depleting resources of the North Sea. Small steps have been made to further secure our long-term gas resources through fracking but this itself is a finite and controversial resource.

One of the unique benefits of heat networks is their ability to adapt their primary fuel source, or build a flexible fuel mix to maximise their environmental credentials and energy security.

A gas fuelled heat network that is upgraded to biomass system means potentially over 1,000 properties are instantly converted to a renewable fuel source.

This is considerably more effective than seeking to upgrade 1,000 individual systems in the event that a fuel becomes unavailable, or at least uneconomical. It would also be difficult and costly to provide individual homes, on any large scale, the fuel mix that heat networks can achieve.

It is argued that security of supply really starts with energy efficiency and heat networks have the added benefit of offering just that. Heat networks have the potential to lower overall fuel demand by centralising generation and offering the benefits of heat production on a greater scale, enhancing levels of energy efficiency.

As new energy technologies are developed heat networks become early adopters, providing a positive benefit to a greater number of properties with relatively small investment. Alongside this heat networks are able to quickly adapt their fuel mix to changing commercial and energy security requirements.

Our economy and society relies on energy, which has become an economic weapon of governments. Our future energy security relies upon our ability to adapt and deflect attempts to compromise our energy security. Heat networks are a key component that allow us to adapt to every changing requirements.

In the same way governments seek to ensure energy security, individual heat network operators must ensure the security and flexibility of their services and infrastructure. One key component in achieving this is through choice and adaptability.

When this choice is removed, such as with closed-protocol metering and revenue recovery systems, heat network operators can become ‘tied-in’. This means that heat network operators rely on service providers operating in a monopolistic market position, directly threatening the long-term sustainability and financial security of a heat network.

Sycous is committed to ensuring heat networks operators are put firmly back in control, with open-protocol metering and data collection solutions and an innovative meter data management and billing application. Find out more about the Sycous range of Products and Solutions to safeguard the long term success of your heat network.

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The Sycous Commitment to Sustainable Transport

Sycous are always seeking to improve the sustainability of our business travel, whether it’s our employees commuting to a place of work, or our team visiting our customers and suppliers. As a result of this commitment we have recently become a member of the West Yorkshire Travel Plan Network. The West Yorkshire Travel Plan Network […]

Sycous are always seeking to improve the sustainability of our business travel, whether it’s our employees commuting to a place of work, or our team visiting our customers and suppliers.

As a result of this commitment we have recently become a member of the West Yorkshire Travel Plan Network.

The West Yorkshire Travel Plan Network (WYTPN) is delivered by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and aims to promote public transport, walking, cycling, responsible car use, and smarter working.West-Yorkshire-Travel-Plan-Network

Sycous already offer all employees the opportunity to purchase bikes through the Cycle to Work scheme, secure cycle parking and changing facilities, as well as flexible working options to facilitate sustainable commuting.

Alongside this our main office is located just a short walk from Leeds Train station and other major public transport links – making it as easy for us and our visitors to utilise public transport.

Following being accepted for membership to the WYTPN we have already made improvements. The latest of which is signing up to the City Car Club and accessing their fleet of low emission vehicles in 17 cities across the UK. This has allowed us to utilise public transport and only use cars for the final part of the journey, if public transport does not provide a viable alternative.

We have also been monitoring how our team commute to work and are now seeking to undertake consultations to find out what we can do to help them improve the sustainability of their commute!

Our current findings on how our team commute, as well as our targets are shown below:

Method of Travel for Commuting Percentage of Employees (Sept-14) Our Current Targets
Single Occupancy Car 40% 30%
Car Share 10% 10%
Train 10% 20%
Bus 20% 10%
Cycle 10% 20%
Walking 10% 10%
Powered two-wheel vehicle 0% 0%
Other 0% 0%

 

We have now started to also monitor methods of business travel to understand and continually improve the sustainability of our travel and hope to publish the results shortly.

We believe that we have a responsibility to lead by example and ensure our environmental and sustainability credentials match those of our product and service offering.

Please follow us on Twitter @Sycous to find out more about our progress, or Click Here to find out more about who we are and how our products and services help our energy and heat network operators improve energy efficiency and combat fuel poverty.

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Heat Meter Value Engineering? Save by just Buying Smarter!

Overzealous value engineering can seriously impact the long-term environmental and financial sustainability of a heat network or district heating system. This can include compromising the quality of insulated distribution pipework, leading to long-term increased distribution losses and increased maintenance costs. CPV Ltd have noted that spending an additional £40,000 on installation of enhanced specification pipework […]

Overzealous value engineering can seriously impact the long-term environmental and financial sustainability of a heat network or district heating system.

This can include compromising the quality of insulated distribution pipework, leading to long-term increased distribution losses and increased maintenance costs. CPV Ltd have noted that spending an additional £40,000 on installation of enhanced specification pipework could lead to savings of £1.2mill over the life of the pipework.

Other compromises include closed-protocol metering systems. Although appearing cost effective, the consequence is that the heat network operator is tied into the supplier or manufacturer for administration and maintenance services. On a heat network with 200 domestic properties, over an 11 year nominal life, the additional cost could be up to £350,000.

These short term savings lead to long term costs that are either subsidised by the heat network operator or more likely passed to consumers within their heat tariff.
This is something Sycous have been working to address.

We have worked closely with our manufacturing partners to offer opportunities for smart value engineering. We believe smart value engineering should not compromise our ability to offer open-protocol metering systems that empower heat network operators to secure best long-term value both internally and through their chosen service providers.

With our latest Ultrasonic Heat Meter we have achieved just that – whilst also lowering the cost.zelsius_C5_IUF

The Sycous C5 Ultrasonic Heat Meter is MID Class 2, available in both 15mm and 20mm and offers open protocol Pulse/Radio, MBus and Wireless MBus outputs.

Innovatively for a low-cost, high performance and compact heat meter, the Sycous C5 Heat Meter allows for 3 pulse inputs as standard.

This means that additional pulsed output meters, such as water or electricity meters, can be connected to the C5 Heat Meter. The C5 Heat Meter then returns its own meter data as well as the connected meters through one inbuilt MBus or Wireless MBus output.

This allows for a number of substantial savings to be made, including:

  • Lower cost, Pulse output, connected meters
  • Less MBus cabling and fewer MBus loops required
  • Smaller, lower cost, Data Collection unit required – a data collection unit capable of collecting data on up to 64 meters would then be able to collect data from up to 256 meters!
  • No Requirement for an expensive Commercial Meter to allow for additional inputs
  • Energy and heat network operators can manage their own metering system using mySycous or any similar energy management system

The savings can be over 30% when compared to all meters offering an MBus output.

Click Here to find out more about the Sycous C5 Ultrasonic Heat Meter, or Contact a member of our Technical Sales Team who can ensure your metering system remains robust and cost-effective.

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Is It Time to Regulate UK Heat Networks?

One question that never seems to go away is whether heat networks will ever be regulated? The basic answer is yes, eventually and despite probable opposition from a number of stakeholders. However the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) currently supports industry-led regulation as a way to stimulate growth and innovation. Since 2013 DECC […]

One question that never seems to go away is whether heat networks will ever be regulated?

The basic answer is yes, eventually and despite probable opposition from a number of stakeholders.

However the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) currently supports industry-led regulation as a way to stimulate growth and innovation. Since 2013 DECC have released statements confirming that they ‘seek to endorse an industry-led consumer protection scheme for heat network users later this year, and encourage the heat networks industry to work with consumer groups in developing this practice’.

This appears to make perfect sense but this means there is little standardisation of design, installation and operation. There are a number of ‘best practise’ guides with the most comprehensive currently in consultation but these remain unenforced with many stakeholders seemingly unaware of their existence.

It raises an interesting question – would regulation actually stagnate growth or lead to greater innovation as well as supporting a standardised infrastructure?

A recent Energy Policy journal article ‘how Danish communal heat planning empowers municipalities and benefits individual consumers’ seems to support the idea that a level of central and local regulation was fundamental in ensuring the sustainable growth of heat networks across Denmark.

The presence of locally developed heat plans ‘foster long-term confidence in DH [district heating] systems by reducing real and perceived risks to customers, heat suppliers, the municipality, and DH system owners.’ [1]

The interesting aspect of Denmark is that policy and regulation is in place through the Heat Supply Act of 1979. This seeks to grant autonomy to local regions/municipalities to develop regionalised solutions that are most appropriate for communities, relying ‘on a centralized policy and technical framework maintained at the national level’ [1].

In Denmark the successes which are now the envy of much of Europe was initiated by central regulation and results speak for themselves. Denmark District Heating companies achieving exceptionally high connection levels and consumer engagement as well as exporting their knowledge and experience across the world.

Maybe in the UK we could learn more about the policy framework to support the development of heat networks, or at least reconsider our position of regulation to create a structure and additional opportunities for growth.

In the meantime, if you want to develop heat networks that seek to empower heat network operators and offer the best solution for consumers, Sycous offer the open-protocol metering and data collection hardware, as well as supporting software that you need. Contact Us today to discuss how we can help.

[1] Chittum, A., Østergaard, P.A., How Danish communal heat planning empowers municipalities and benefits individual consumers. Energy Policy (2014), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2014.08.001i. Image Credit – Bloomberg Business Week.

 

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Penguins, Sustainability and Automatic Meter Reading-

It seems like an odd title for a blog but one of the most shared articles across our office last week was from the Guardian on how London Zoo has improved the sustainability of its water infrastructure. The results have been extraordinary for London Zoo, ‘the annual water charge today is only 5.9% higher than […]

It seems like an odd title for a blog but one of the most shared articles across our office last week was from the Guardian on how London Zoo has improved the sustainability of its water infrastructure.

The results have been extraordinary for London Zoo, ‘the annual water charge today is only 5.9% higher than 12 years ago. This figure is more significant considering that from 2002 to 2014 the mean cost per square cubic metre of water charged to ZSL has increased by 103.1%.’ This includes new enclosures such the Penguin Beach, built in 2011, which despite a ten-fold increase in size, saved 6000m3 of water per year using a water filtration and treatment system.

One of the first steps towards achieving these results has been the use of Automatic Meter Reading (AMR).

Metering and AMR technologies deliver an in-depth understanding of water and energy use, highlighting where inefficiencies occur and any sudden changes in the level of demand. This information can then be quickly and effectively developed into a strategy that targets efficiency improvements in the most cost effective manner; whether it be repairing leaks or installing the latest technologies.

London Zoo has already saved more than £1million since 1995 – imagine what you could save?

Best of all, Sycous can help.

At Sycous we have the technical expertise to help you select the right meter and automatic meter reading system for your application. Whether you want to meter a water, heat, electricity or gas supply and want to read your meters using a wireless or wired system, we have the solution.

Contact us today to discuss how we can help you with your metering and automatic meter reading requirements.

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Sycous Multi-Jet Hot Water Meter

Sycous-Multi-Jet-Hot-Water-Meter

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A New Level of Heat Networks with Energy from Waste

When I think about energy from waste I instantly think of the burning of municipal waste for heat networks or district heating systems, the lesser of two evils when managing municipal waste. However, the FT put energy from waste into a new perspective with a great article entitled ‘Bitcoin’s wasted power – and how it […]

When I think about energy from waste I instantly think of the burning of municipal waste for heat networks or district heating systems, the lesser of two evils when managing municipal waste.

However, the FT put energy from waste into a new perspective with a great article entitled ‘Bitcoin’s wasted power – and how it could be used to heat homes’. It certainly grabbed my interest and makes for a very interesting read.

The article notes one issue facing Bitcoin miners is their energy intensive data centres, making it an expensive task for miners to acquire Bitcoins. One solution, described as the latest ‘fad’, has been the use of smart mining devices that utilise this waste or residual heat to provide heating for homes.

I’m not going to argue the economics of whether this provides a cost effective system but it does present an interesting idea. What if we could smart mine ‘waste heat’ to offset our energy costs across our homes, offices, data centres?

The idea isn’t new. Pimlico District Heating system built in the 1950’s utilised waste heat from Battersea power station, the managed hosting provider UKFast announced in May that it intended to build its latest data centre underground with an office block that could utilise the excess heat to further improve environmental credentials.

The use of smart mining could be even more effective in a connected urban smart city, with smart mining taking waste energy from infrastructure, whether public, commercial and even domestic. This mined or waste energy could be utilised locally when a demand exists and when there is no demand this could then be sold into a heat or cooling network – similar to a PV system with exported energy. The main difference to current heat network design is that there are multiple local generators of energy and a diminished requirement for a central generation system.

There are plenty of technological, commercial and social hurdles to overcome and there would need to be exceptional levels of supply and demand management but if we could harness the waste energy that all energy consuming systems generate the possibility certainly exists-

Whatever happens one thing we need to be able to do, especially on heat networks, is to meter supplies to ensure consumers are billed for what they use and heat network operators understand where their system losses occur. Check out the range of smart Sycous heat and cooling meters available for both commercial and domestic applications and ensure your meters are delivering the data you need.

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Sycous Ultrasonic Commercial Heat and Cooling Meter

Sycous-Commercial-Ultrasonic-Meter

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ENE3 Energy Display Device and District Heating

I was recently looking into some potential devices that could function as an energy display device for a district heating or community heating supply. I was initially quite surprised by the lack of choice available in the market. It appears that the majority of devices are ‘in-built’ to existing district heating infrastructure, such as prepayment […]

I was recently looking into some potential devices that could function as an energy display device for a district heating or community heating supply. I was initially quite surprised by the lack of choice available in the market. It appears that the majority of devices are ‘in-built’ to existing district heating infrastructure, such as prepayment or ‘pay-as-you-go’ units.

This provides a number of restrictions, not only in terms of functionality and future-proofing but also further restricts consumer choice. A quick search of consumer message boards will highlight the concern of consumers over restrictions of choice in relation to district heating supplies. This is something that, so far, the industry has failed to satisfactorily resolve in the UK. Progress to protect consumers is being made with a number of voluntary schemes currently under consultation.

The majority of available energy display devices for district heating supplies appear to work on a ‘one solution fits all’ philosophy, with restrictions in terms of their physical location and visibility, making them less accessible to a number of consumer groups. This then becomes self-defeating because those most likely in need of assistance to reduce their energy consumption are denied access to information that could assist.

However, it seems that all is not lost, I later discovered a number of devices that are currently being developed and others that are being tested. These upcoming devices are designed to offer an open-protocol system to work with utility electricity meters and any heat meter, with a suitable open-protocol output. This allows heat network operators to offer consumer choice on a range of devices that meet their requirements, physical and functional flexibility, as well as a low-cost, open-protocol solution.

There is also the issue that in order to get the two points for an energy display device under the Code for Sustainable Homes ENE3 (currently under review) ‘current electricity and primary heating fuel consumption data’ must be displayed to occupants. If we are to avoid the installation of two energy display devices, or in-home displays, we should ensure that they designed to present data from heat meters, as well as utility electricity meters or electricity sub-meters on private-wire networks. This minimises costs and enhances functionality for consumers.

To find out more about the Sycous range of open-protocol heat and electricity sub-meters, as well as how to future-proof your district heating system, check out the Sycous metering solution or Contact Us today.

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Smart Sub-Metering – A Deluge of Data for Validation

The continuing growth of ‘smart’ sub-meters presents a particular issue in terms of the vast data it produces, not only in terms of storage but also the validity of the data itself. A meter that reads daily will generate 365 data files per annum, a meter that reads hourly will generate 8760 data files per […]

The continuing growth of ‘smart’ sub-meters presents a particular issue in terms of the vast data it produces, not only in terms of storage but also the validity of the data itself. A meter that reads daily will generate 365 data files per annum, a meter that reads hourly will generate 8760 data files per annum. And this is only for one meter.

Smart sub-meters, whether for heat, hot water, cold water, electricity or gas supplies present a challenge of meter data management (MDM) that edges towards the realms of ‘big data’. Big data is a data set so large that traditional data validation, including manual validation, is no longer an option. Big data needs automatic validation and processing.

The data validation of smart sub-meters also offers endless opportunities to understand patterns of energy consumption and demand, even to the point of providing targeted energy advice and vastly improved energy management on an individual and community level. The possibilities are infinite but only work if the data is correct and presented in a manageable format.

Sub-meters, especially ones using a protocol such as MBus, provide more than just a meter reading. If we take an MBus heat meter for example, the data returned includes error information, flow and return temperatures, serial numbers and reading values. This information, if correctly validated and presented, can easily be used to identify areas of concern, including revenue protection and maintenance requirements to better overall system control, as well as empowering consumers with information on potential areas of energy savings.

Effective data validation within an advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) or smart-meter environment will require a solid system architecture that is flexible to changing requirements and allow simple and efficient integration into business processes. However, sub-metering is often installed on community and district energy networks that are operated by energy and heat network operators, whose role as a ‘utility provider’ is often not their primary function. Energy and heat network operators can range from commercial organisations to Housing Associations and Local Authorities. These organisations face a choice between underutilising sub-meter data, which defeats the object of their installation, or use of a meter data management (MDM) solution which can automate and simplify these data management and validation challenges.

The mySycous data management and consumer billing system offers a MDM solution designed for energy and heat network operators. This offers a simple, flexible and cost effective solution allowing smart sub-meters to be used to their full potential to the benefit of both the network operator and consumer.

Please Contact Us today to discuss how we can help you utilise your smart meter data in the most cost-effective way possible.

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Sycous Ultrasonic Domestic Heat and Cooling Meter

Sycous-Domestic-Ultrasonic-Heat-Cooling-Meter

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Developing the next generation of experts in Energy Networks, Metering, Billing and Data Collection

Our latest graduate trainee, Mark Fisher, has recently joined our Commercial Team. Mark is now starting a comprehensive and rigorous 12 month training programme. This graduate training programme will equip Mark with the skills, knowledge and experience of community and district heat and energy systems, specifically the metering, data collection and billing of heat and […]

Our latest graduate trainee, Mark Fisher, has recently joined our Commercial Team. Mark is now starting a comprehensive and rigorous 12 month training programme. This graduate training programme will equip Mark with the skills, knowledge and experience of community and district heat and energy systems, specifically the metering, data collection and billing of heat and other supplies.

Mark will have plenty of opportunity to develop his strong analytical skills gained from his Mathematics, Accounting and Financial Management degree, applying his a
cademic knowledge to a practical purpose to become a potential industry leader of the future.

From his first interview Mark has impressed us with his out of the box thinking, natural understanding of the benefits of metering and exceptional presentation skills.

With the rapid growth of renewable energy and associated technologies in the UK, alongside a growing focus on localised generation, energy heat networks in the UK are the solution for reducing our environmental impact now and in the future. In order to ensure these savings are realised a heat meter, data collection and heat billing system are essential components, allowing heat network operators to monitor efficiencies and consumption and for consumers to only pay for what they have consumed.

We will keep you up-to-date with Mark’s progress and I’m sure he will be creating his own blog in no time at all! In the meantime, Contact Us today to find out how Sycous can help you with your heat meter, data collection and heat billing requirements.

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Save Money, Save Resources and Deliver a Great Energy and Heat Billing Solution

Thinking about the size and potential of the internet and the ‘cloud’ is similar to thinking about the size and potential of the universe. It is mind-boggling. One of the most interesting websites I have ever found – http://htwins.net/scale2/ – attempts to make the Universe plausible by putting it into some sort of perspective. Not quite […]

Thinking about the size and potential of the internet and the ‘cloud’ is similar to thinking about the size and potential of the universe. It is mind-boggling.

One of the most interesting websites I have ever found – http://htwins.net/scale2/ – attempts to make the Universe plausible by putting it into some sort of perspective.

Not quite on the same scale but the internet and cloud computing can appear mind-boggling but it provides one of the greatest resources available to organisations of any size. Sometimes we just need to put the benefits into perspective.

Energy and Heat Network Operators with secondary meters, or sub-metering, often do not realise the potential savings and benefits through offering a cloud-based energy and heat billing solution.

The installation of ‘smart’ energy and heat meters, alongside a suitable open-protocol data collection system, offers an enormous potential to allow consumers to pay for what they use. However, the cost of providing this benefit should not exceed the cost of doing so-

This is where the cloud comes in. Energy and Heat Network Operators, such as Local Authorities, Registered Providers of Social Housing/Housing Associations and Private Landlords can provide a solution with minimal overheads to ensure that savings are maximised and passed to consumers.

mySycous, the Data Collection and Billing Application from Sycous provides a cloud-based solution to import and validate meter reads, manage metering and data collection assets, bill consumers for their actual consumption and manage consumer accounts and payments. All without the need for any expensive hardware, servers or installed software.

The specific advantages of mySycous depend on your requirements, which we will happily go through in detail with you but some of the major advantages include:

  • Flexibility and Scalability – mySycous is fully scalable so whether you have 2 or 2,000,000 consumers and meter points mySycous offers all of the same benefits to you and your consumers.
  • Disaster Recovery – Our UK based Data Centres have the very latest Disaster Recovery in place (the NHS and UK Adoption Agency also use the same Data Centre) meaning you don’t need complex Disaster Recovery Plans – it is already taken care of.
  • Security and Data Protection – Some 800,000 laptops are lost each year in airports alone. Cloud computing and mySycous ensure that whatever happens to your computers consumer data is remains secure.
  • Environmentally Friendly – Businesses using cloud computing only use the server space they need, which decreases their carbon footprint. Using the cloud results in at least 30% less energy consumption and carbon emissions than using on-site servers. With mySycous also offer e-billing and online account management the green credentials of your energy and heat billing system match those of your energy system!

So to find out about what you could save in both time and money Click Here to contact us today!

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Sycous become a UK Support Partner of Zenner!

Sycous has recently become a UK support partner of Zenner, an exciting development for both organisations. Our team has recently visited the Zenner offices in Saarbruecken, Germany, where we received intensive training from the Zenner team of technical experts on their full metering range. This included the latest ultrasonic heat, cooling and combined energy meter, […]

Sycous has recently become a UK support partner of Zenner, an exciting development for both organisations.

Our team has recently visited the Zenner offices in Saarbruecken, Germany, where we received intensive training from the Zenner team of technical experts on their full metering range. This included the latest ultrasonic heat, cooling and combined energy meter, the C5 IUF. The C5 IUF energy meter has been specifically designed for community and district energy systems.

Whilst in Saarbruecken we did also manage to also squeeze in some of the local delights, including wine-tasting at the beautiful Quack Restaurant.

In becoming a UK support partner, Sycous can offer manufacturer-standard support to all its UK clients.

WP_20140513_002Our team of manufacturer trained technicians are able to provide telephone and on-site technical support. We also provide training that allows installation and maintenance teams to correctly install and maintain equipment from a range of manufacturers. This minimises the installation, commissioning and on-going maintenance costs.

Across the world, in over 90 countries, Zenner are renowned for their innovation, quality and precision measuring techniques. Each year they manufacturer over four million domestic and commercial water, heat and gas meters.

 

 

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9 Reasons to Insource your Energy and Heat Billing

This week’s blog is a short one that wades in on the ‘Insource versus Outsourcing’ debate, summarising the benefits of insourcing your Energy, Utility or Heat Billing: Improved Customer Service – Delivering a ‘one-stop’ solution and managing all your consumer interaction in one place provides an improved and more personalised service for your consumers. Quality […]

This week’s blog is a short one that wades in on the ‘Insource versus Outsourcing’ debate, summarising the benefits of insourcing your Energy, Utility or Heat Billing:

  1. Improved Customer Service – Delivering a ‘one-stop’ solution and managing all your consumer interaction in one place provides an improved and more personalised service for your consumers.
  2. Quality Control – Insourcing leads to a more transparent quality control mechanism based on all available information and not just what is presented.
  3. Scalability – Insourcing allows you to scale to your consumers requirements, as well as benefitting from greater economies of scale as you grow.
  4. Internal Communication – Immediate and direct communication across internal business functions leads to better service delivery and buy-in across your organisation- rather than one management team to a Service Providers account management team, once or month or less.
  5. Process Integration – Integrating your Energy and Heat Billing into your existing business processes maximises efficiency and minimises mistakes and costs.
  6. Savings Passed to Consumers not Margins – When savings such as efficiency improvements are implemented, for example increasing the uptake of e-billing, these savings can be passed to consumers and not the Service Providers margin.
  7. Budget Control – Managing a process means you can manage the costs, avoiding being hit by annual price increases, expensive contract renegotiations and hidden ‘extra’ charges every time you make a change.
  8. Exit Strategy – Outsourcing can lead to long contracts, closed-protocol equipment that’s costly, or even impractical, to replace and exit charges that can make it financially impossible.
  9. Billing and Debt Collection is a Core Competency – Energy and Heat Network Operators are often Registered Providers/Housing Associations, Local Authorities or Private Landlords, all of whom are experts at billing and collecting money. They collect our Council Tax, rents and service charges every day of the year. Energy and Heat bills are not any different, they just need a system that allows them to generate bills!

Click Here to find out more on the mySycous meter management and billing application that allows you to insource and puts you back in control of your District Energy or District Heating system.

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It’s getting hot in here- so turn off the District Heating!

It might not make for the best song lyric but summer has arrived in the UK. I have anxiously waited, surviving hayfever fits and shivering in shorts for several months. The arrival is mixed with heatwave alerts and billions of flying ants – although no hosepipe bans as yet- It seems like quite a strange […]

It might not make for the best song lyric but summer has arrived in the UK.
I have anxiously waited, surviving hayfever fits and shivering in shorts for several months. The arrival is mixed with heatwave alerts and billions of flying ants – although no hosepipe bans as yet-

It seems like quite a strange suggestion to say turn off the heating, the majority of people turn their heating off in April, or more specifically the 14th April, according to the Express.
However, there is an endemic problem on heat networks and district heating systems, especially ones without heat meters. Some consumers simply do not turn the heating off, instead they regulate the temperature of their home by opening the windows and letting the heat escape. This has been noted in a recent journal article with one occupant quoted as saying “I try not to waste hot water and heat. – By not having the heating on when the window is open. Which lots of people here very often do”.

This problem is seemingly caused by people who either don’t understand how heating controls work, or believe they are paying for it and therefore they’ll use it. Either way the difference between these consumers and consumers with a gas boiler? A meter and the fact they pay for what they use.
Many heat networks and District Heating systems across the UK are unmetered and consumers are charged a flat rate, therefore there is no monetary incentive to save energy and utilise heating controls.
This issue can be easily addressed with the installation of Heat Meters and a charging system, such as the mySycous application. This allows for each individual consumer to be charged based on actual usage, providing an incentive to reduce energy and turn off the heating, rather than just opening the window.
These improved efficiencies can then be incorporated into the design and operation of heat networks to make them increasingly efficient and a more viable technological solution.
So let’s save money and energy by installing heat meters!

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Energy Meters, Energy Conservation and Car Manufacturers

It was interesting to recently hear an industry ‘outsiders’ view on the benefits of metering on communal and district heating systems. Instead of talking about energy conservation, sustainability or reducing poverty they described a meter as just like an MPG or Miles per Gallon display in a car. It clicked with everyone in the room […]

It was interesting to recently hear an industry ‘outsiders’ view on the benefits of metering on communal and district heating systems.

Instead of talking about energy conservation, sustainability or reducing poverty they described a meter as just like an MPG or Miles per Gallon display in a car. It clicked with everyone in the room at the time because it was something they could relate to.

It did get me thinking how true this was and the difference MPG displays have made in cars. I found very few studies, with most focusing on ‘EcoDriving’ or the effects of behavioural change rather than the effect of information on enacting behavioural change.

In our office I’ve heard conversations before about the MPG colleagues cars have achieved, even up to
94mpg for some journeys (I think they may have got out and pushed for the uphill parts). I know members of my own family have changed their car because their average MPG was too low and therefore they believed they could save money by investing in a car with a better MPG.

This demonstrates the true benefits of metering – empowering the consumer to become almost competitive in attempting to reduce energy consumption by providing ‘real-time’ feedback on successes and failures. Metering and how data is presented empowers consumers with knowledge of the effects of ‘bad’ behaviour, whether it is fast driving or controlling heating systems using only a thermostat. We only change when we can see the effects in a clear and concise way, whether it is an MPG display or meter.

Maybe one thing we can improve is how we present energy information to consumers, car manufacturers do it with accessibility and subtlety in mind, whereas a meter or energy display can require the consumer to be directly engaged and proactively looking at their energy consumption. It seems we need to look at different ways of integrating energy information into the fabric of consumer lifestyles. I have seen some great examples recently and with investment in ‘Smart Cities’ and the ‘Internet of Things’ I’m sure there are many more to come…

Image Source – http://blog.mercedes-benzsouthwest.co.uk/

 

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The Carrot of Energy Conservation

I was kept entertained last week with a resurgence of commentary relating to ideas that encourage consumers to reduce their energy consumption. The Energy Saving Trust released a blog entitled ‘Words and actions matter in changing energy behaviour’ that provided a great overview of how terminology and context can enact different behavioural and emotional responses. […]

I was kept entertained last week with a resurgence of commentary relating to ideas that encourage consumers to reduce their energy consumption. The Energy Saving Trust released a blog entitled ‘Words and actions matter in changing energy behaviour’ that provided a great overview of how terminology and context can enact different behavioural and emotional responses. Inside Housing published an article ‘Giving ‘smileys’ as feedback could cut energy bills’ and despite some of the ‘tongue in cheek’ comments the quoted study by Sustainable Homes supported earlier findings by Paul Dolan and Robert Metcalfe in their discussion paper ‘Neighbors, knowledge, and nuggets: Two natural field experiments on the role of incentives on energy conservation’.

I think we should be careful about underestimating the power of the carrot, acting as a knowledge tool, in
encouraging consumers to understand their level of energy consumption and whether it is comparatively high. Quite often when consumers are encouraged to reduce energy consumption, instead of using the carrot, we use the stick – if you don’t follow the mandated advice, it will lead to higher bills!

One particular difficulty I often find is for those consumers connected to heat networks – how much is a lot of heat? There is little publically available information on what consumers would expect to use and many consumers naïvely believe they will use a similar amount of gas in terms of kilowatt-hours (kWh). It can be an uphill battle to help educate consumers to understand they are not buying a raw fuel such as gas, which they need to convert to heat but they’re buying the end product so they’ll actually use less.

An added complexity can be in terms of the tariff charged – the unit rate per kWh can be higher on heat networks for a number of reasons, which we have discussed in our Knowledge Bank and previous Blog Posts.

Back to the point- when a consumer is connected to a heat network it can be extremely difficult for them to know whether their energy consumption is actually high. This is why simple indicators can have a massive impact on encouraging positive conservation behaviors, provide an indication on the success of their own conservation measures and encourage consumers to get help in reducing their energy consumption.

Some consumers want figures and graphs that can be analysed and we certainly should provide access to this information but in reality a quick spot check can have the greatest impact. This is one of the main reasons the mySycous energy billing application already offers ‘peer comparison’ information as standard. All energy statements or bills generated using the mySycous application provide peer consumption ‘smileys’ so consumers can see how their energy consumption compares to similar local properties.

The mySycous application has been designed to allow energy network operators such as Housing Associations, Local Authorities and private landlords to take control and manage their energy and heat network. mySycous provides a user-friendly application that automatically imports and validates meter data, raises energy statements or bills to consumers and offers a simple Consumer Relationship Management and accounting system. For more information or to arrange a demo please check out our website or contact a member of our team.

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Data Protection, Heat Billing & Social Housing

One of the most interesting documents I’ve read recently, inspired in part by CIH 2014, has been the ‘Findings from ICO advisory visits to social housing organisations’ published by the ICO in February 2014. At Sycous we have always recognised the potential risks of providing a platform on which personal data is processed. We have […]

One of the most interesting documents I’ve read recently, inspired in part by CIH 2014, has been the ‘Findings from ICO advisory visits to social housing organisations’ published by the ICO in February 2014.

At Sycous we have always recognised the potential risks of providing a platform on which personal data is processed. We have constantly sought to audit, review and update our systems and processes to guarantee that security and data protection remain at the core of the mySycous energy and heat billing application.

This ICO document highlighted a number of challenges and good practise guidelines for social housing organisations to adopt. In order to fully adhere to these guidelines it is imperative that partner organisations, such as Sycous, ensure the platforms on which data is managed is controlled in a similar environment and to the same guidelines.

I was reassured going through this ICO guidance on the extent to which Sycous meets these challenges head-on. This ensures that energy and heat network operators, such as social housing organisations, can utilise the benefits of the mySycous application in a secure environment.

The very foundations of this security is of a physical nature. All mySycous data is processed, stored and backed-up on UK based servers. These servers are located in an externally accredited, ISO 27001:2005 Information Security Management certified and PCI DSS accredited data centre. For further information please check out our Data Security and System Resilience documentation.

Alongside this physical security the mySycous application and its architecture has been designed with application level firewalls, role based access controls and high level encryption and password requirements, among many other security features. This safeguards data at every level and allows for the necessary management in a secure environment and only by those authorised.

We have supported this level of data protection within the mySycous application with our own internal policies, management oversight and internal staff training. This allows for a fully holistic approach to data protection, covering all elements of Sycous business processes, product and service offerings.

This commitment to data protection and security guarantees best-practises are adopted to mitigate risk and ensure that mySycous remains the first-choice for energy and heat network operators, including providers of social housing, to operate a utility or heat billing application.

For further information on mySycous, please check out our website. Alternatively, please Contact Us and a member of our team will be happy to assist.

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Consumer Demand for District Heating

It seems generally accepted that district heating offers a number of benefits beyond only saving energy. The potential benefits of district heating include improving the sustainability of heating our homes, maximising the benefits of renewable heating technologies and even reducing fuel poverty. It should be noted that these benefits are only possible if a district […]

It seems generally accepted that district heating offers a number of benefits beyond only saving energy.

The potential benefits of district heating include improving the sustainability of heating our homes, maximising the
benefits of renewable heating technologies and even reducing fuel poverty.

It should be noted that these benefits are only possible if a district heating system is installed and operated correctly.

There seems to be an agreement across a range of stakeholders, from politicians to energy experts, that district heating offers long term benefits, especially when heat meters are installed and a heat billing system is operated. However, one vital stakeholder always seems to be missing, the consumer.

One of the biggest barriers to district heating systems is consumer demand and understanding. Currently there is little understanding of district heating and the potential benefits, meaning there is little consumer demand for connection to any heat network. It can even be argued that there is potential resistance to something different to the ‘norm’.

Last week we completed our own, limited but indicative, survey of 210 people. Our team asked whether each person had heard of three different types of heating system and whether they believe that they understood how it worked. The results are detailed below:

Have you heard of this system? Do you understand how it works?
Yes No Yes No
Biomass 74% 26% 61% 39%
District Heating 8% 92% 7% 93%
Electric storage heaters 87% 13% 85% 15%

Arguably biomass can be included as a district heating technology but the consensus from our survey was that it was it would be installed in individual homes, much like a gas boiler, or confused with a wood burning stove.

The lack of consumer knowledge of district heating and therefore demand has to be one of the greatest barriers to heat networks, something the Heat Networks Delivery Unit (HNDU) at DECC and other stakeholders urgently need to address.

I’m sure if we conducted this research only a few years ago biomass would have been largely unknown, so the possibility is there to remove district heating from the fringe and into the mainstream.

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Fuel Poverty versus Renewable Energy

There seems to be a conflict as to the impact of renewable energy actually reducing fuel poverty. I recently met a number of elderly residents who were anxious over their energy costs, despite receiving their heat energy through a renewable source. This concerned me and led me to delve a little deeper, including reading online message boards. […]

There seems to be a conflict as to the impact of renewable energy actually reducing fuel poverty.

I recently met a number of elderly residents who were anxious over their energy costs, despite receiving their heat energy through a renewable source. This concerned me and led me to delve a little deeper, including reading online message boards. I was surprised to find the high number of consumers, especially in social housing, who don’t seem to realise the cost
benefits of renewable energy.

This was confirmed by the latest Government fuel poverty statistics, where 2% of those in fuel poverty lived in A/B/C SAP rated properties. Although the true figure is likely to be higher. Energy consumption has reduced but the cost of this renewable energy and the additional fixed ongoing lifetime costs can exceed the cost benefits from a reduction in consumption.

I am aware of examples of renewable energy massively reducing energy costs but I’m very concerned about those who are still in fuel poverty, despite being connected to renewable energy sources.

This potential problem also doesn’t seem to be limited to one renewable technology. I’ve read over 100 cases, covering a range of technologies that all promote energy reduction and sustainability, such as air-source heat pumps, biomass boilers and PV, among many others.

Inevitably if installed and operated correctly these technologies can massively reduce energy consumption, increase energy security and offer enormous environmental benefits across their life of operation. However, these benefits come at a cost and that cost is often related to their operation and maintenance, which is then a fixed ongoing lifetime cost. These costs are often charged, or passed through, to consumers.

It seems logical that if renewable energy is to truly combat fuel poverty there needs to be a focus on not only reducing the initial capital cost but also the additional ongoing lifetime costs. Some will argue this is what RHI succeeds in doing but too often RHI is not used to offset these costs and is insufficient to mitigate these costs.

If renewable energy is to succeed in combatting fuel poverty there needs to be a reduction in the ongoing lifetime costs that are passed through to consumers. This can be achieved in a number of ways but the quickest may be through increasing the supply of organisations who are proficient in the maintenance, administration and effective operation of renewable energy systems. This opens a market that can appear to be an oligopoly, allowing free market conditions that increase supply, increase competition and ultimately reduces fixed lifetime costs.

This can only be achieved with the support of all stakeholders across the market and led not by those seeking to build barriers to protect profit margins but consumers and energy network operators who want to break down barriers, improving service and lowering cost.

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A Storm in a Teacup – Heat, Cooling and the ‘EED’

Over the last few weeks I’ve started to see a flurry of tweets and blogs, including an Inside Housing article stating that “housing providers face ‘significant’ costs as a result of new European rules on energy meters”. This all sounds very worrying to any heat network operator, especially housing providers with restricted budgets who operate a […]

Over the last few weeks I’ve started to see a flurry of tweets and blogs, including an Inside Housing article stating that “housing providers face ‘significant’ costs as a result of new European rules on energy meters”.

This all sounds very worrying to any heat network operator, especially housing providers with restricted budgets who operate a heat or cooling network.

Before becoming too concerned over the budgetary impact of the EU Energy Efficiency Directive 2012 (EED), it is worth taking the Inside Housing article with a pinch of salt.

These systems aren’t just “common in older tower blocks”, as the article stated. Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker was recently quoted as saying that “heat networks are a defining part of our smarter, cleaner energy future.” These systems aren’t a historical legacy but a key component of our long-term energy security and sustainability policies.

On new and upgraded heat networks it has become the industry norm to install heat meters due in part to the potential energy savings, meaning these systems are likely to meet the requirements of the EED.

We should remember that installing a meter in itself doesn’t save energy. However, it is one side ofConsumption Reduction Triange the Consumption Reduction Triangle (CRT). The CRT is made up of heating controls to enable consumers to reduce their consumption, smart metering to empower consumers to understand and measure their consumption and a charging mechanism to incentivise the use of controls.

One side of the CRT without the others is not effective at reducing energy consumption, consumers may not have the ability or incentive to reduce their consumption. All three sides together become a sound, structurally strong, building block of consumption reduction.

The metering and charging requirements within the EED complete the CRT. This provides consumers a monetary incentive to reduce their energy consumption, potentially reducing fuel-poverty and delivering a more sustainable heating or cooling system. The DECC consultation documentation for the EED referred to energy savings of up to 30%.

The EED merely provides the legislative timetable for a change that the industry is moving towards on its own accord.

It cannot be denied that this could represent a cost to heat network operators but this should be weighed against the benefits which include reduced fuel demand, lower thermal peak demand, options for increasing efficiency, as well as social benefits.

For more information on the EU Energy Efficiency Directive 2012 check out our Quick Guide. 

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Recovering Costs on Community and District Energy Networks: Choosing the Right Metering and Charging Strategy

It seems very common that energy network operators are not fully considering their long-term metering and charging strategy when developing and upgrading community or district energy systems. It is probably one of the most costly mistakes and not only in terms of budgets but also customer service. Choosing the wrong metering and charging strategy will have […]

It seems very common that energy network operators are not fully considering their long-term metering and charging strategy when developing and upgrading community or district energy systems.

It is probably one of the most costly mistakes and not only in terms of budgets but also customer service. Choosing the wrong metering and charging strategy will have an impact for the life of a metering system, which can exceed 15 years.

I can understand how this can fall down on a ‘to-do’ list when developing or upgrading a system. Choosing the right mix of energy sources and renewables, alongside ensuring the correct specification of pipework, is far more exciting and certainly has a direct impact on the long-term efficiency and cost effectiveness of a system.

It seems logical that all metering systems should be ‘open-protocol’, meaning the system isn’t tied into the manufacturer or any supplier. This is similar to a mobile phone that is not locked to one network. The difference when you choose a mobile phone contract is that you are looking at being tied-in for up to 24 months, in a regulated industry, when looking at community and district energy you are looking at 15 years or more in an unregulated industry.

Any system that isn’t ‘open-protocol’ removes choice both now and in the future. This raises questions over being tied into future cost increases and maintenance providers, as well the level of
service you and your consumers might receive.

A similar issue can exist with closed-protocol ‘pay-as-you-go’ systems, where you are tied into an administration and even a maintenance contract with the manufacturer or supplier. This would effectively commit you and your consumers into a 15 year contract because the exit arrangements would include having to replace the installed equipment.

There also seems to be some false sense of security, especially with terms such as ‘guaranteed recovery’ and ‘cost effective’ being quoted. These aren’t necessarily true. If someone chooses not to use the system and finds an alternative, any fixed availability or standing charges are not guaranteed to be recovered. Cost-effectiveness doesn’t necessarily take into account the true costs of closed-protocol systems, such as the additional hardware costs, lack of control over on-going administration costs, maintenance costs, as well as reducing consumer choice and business impact if service is not achieved.

Often an open-protocol metering and charging arrangement can provide a number of benefits, including:

  • No additional and costly closed-protocol hardware requirements
  • No long-term contract and simple exit arrangements.
  • Enhanced consumer appeal of properties with industry standard metering systems and energy billing arrangements
  • Maximisation of cash flow through monthly billing and budget Direct Debit
  • Limitation and capping of debt risk to an individual property and consumer
  • Greater choice with options to outsource to a 3rd party or undertake ‘in-house’ using a software application
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The Non-Techy’s Explanation of Community and District Heating

Community and district heating, communal heating or heat networks, are essentially where a number of properties and/or commercial premises are connected by pipework that circulates hot water from a communal heat source, such as a boiler or series of boilers.   This circulated hot water is then consumed by the connected properties for heat and […]

Community and district heating, communal heating or heat networks, are essentially where a number of properties and/or commercial premises are connected by pipework that circulates hot water from a communal heat source, such as a boiler or series of boilers.

 

This circulated hot water is then consumed by the connected properties for heat and hot water purposes, whether it’s getting a bath, or keeping warm on a cold winters evening.

The circulating hot water going through the connected pipework is generated by taking a raw fuel, such as gas or a renewable and converting it on a bulk scale. This means everyone can benefit from greater efficiencies when compared to each property generating their own heat and hot water.

This also means the connected properties do not have a gas boiler or individual electric heating system and are therefore not paying one of the main utility companies for their heat and hot water. Instead these properties make payments to a heat network operator.

This heat network operator, could be a Registered Provider, Local Authority, private landlord or another organisation who operates the heat network. This heat network operator is then responsible for setting the correct tariff to recover the costs of the system and charging individual properties for the heat and hot water they have used.

This is where Sycous comes in. We supply a smart metering solution to allow heat network operators to accurately meter each properties consumption of heat and hot water. Alongside this, we offer a unique smart meter management and billing system that allows heat network operators to accurately and fairly charge properties for the cost of providing the heat and hot water they have used. If you would like a demo, or just want to find out a little more information, please contact one of our friendly team.

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We’ve Discovered the Home of Innovation in Leeds

It was planned with strategic precision and executed seamlessly, except we made a slight detour to buy a new office plant. We’ve now moved into our new offices at the Leeds Innovation Centre! In order that we can continue to grow and innovate, we decided that the time was right to move to a more […]

sycous-flower
It was planned with strategic precision and executed seamlessly, except we made a slight detour to buy a new office plant. We’ve now moved into our new offices at the Leeds Innovation Centre!

In order that we can continue to grow and innovate, we decided that the time was right to move to a more central location in Leeds. This also gave us the opportunity to move to a creative, enterprising and commercial environment. Our office is based alongside some of the most innovative companies in the UK and were on the door-step of the world-leading ‘Energy Leeds’ research institution at the University of Leeds.
We instantly felt at home and have already come up with some great new ideas, so watch this space.

Also, to find out more about the Leeds Innovation Centre and the amazing businesses located here, just visit the website www.leedsinnovationcentre.co.uk.

If you would like to come and pay us a visit, or would like to write to us, our new address is:
Sycous Limited, Leeds Innovation Centre, 103 Clarendon Road, Leeds, LS2 9DF.

 

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We”re Doing It- We”re Starting a Blog!

It might seem like we’re a little behind the curve in setting up a blog, nevertheless we thought this might be the prime opportunity with the enormous industry changes expected in the next 12 months. We want to keep all our clients, suppliers and anyone else who’s interested, up-to-date with the latest industry news, great […]

It might seem like we’re a little behind the curve in setting up a blog, nevertheless we thought this might be the prime opportunity with the enormous industry changes expected in the next 12 months. We want to keep all our clients, suppliers and anyone else who’s interested, up-to-date with the latest industry news, great new ideas and products and probably a few other things along the way.
The world of community and district energy is changing, it’s actually becoming more mainstream in the UK and a few of the changes we’re already seeing include:

 

  • An increasing number and variety of organisations, in both the public and private sectors, which are becoming energy and heat network operators.
  • Ever more innovative technologies being utilised within energy and heat networks to improve system efficiencies and reduce our energy consumption.
  • Standardisation of metering on heat and cooling networks, driven by market demand and future legislative changes, especially the EU Directive on Energy Efficiency 2012.
  • Increasing focus on consumer protection, ensuring consumers receive a similar level of service and protection to what they receive as a gas and electricity consumer.
  • Growth of localised energy networks beginning to reduce our grid demand, contribute towards UK energy security and potentially make an impact on fuel bills and fuel poverty.

But there always exists the risk that the industry could become dominated by another ‘big-6’. This is why it’s so encouraging that some of the UK’s most innovative companies, Registered Providers and charities are becoming energy and heat network operators, supported by products and technologies, such as those offered by Sycous.
We’ve certainly seen an ever increasing interest in our smart meters and end-consumer data management, billing and revenue collection solution. This application has been designed for energy and heat network operators, if you haven’t heard about it before, please check it out on our website.

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