Earth Notes: Energy Game Changer: HaaS (Heating as a Service) Insight Summary
HaaS Lite - Some Key Insights
Because the project accelerated rather quicker than expected with the arrival of investment, this summary document will pick out a few key items of interest from the project. These should be of use to others studying HaaS and this sector more widely.
It has been interesting to hear increasing acceptance and understanding of the "HaaS" concept over the project's life. From the corridors of power to our peers that we pitched alongside at the 2018 Future of Utilities event.
Though we lost our (district heating/billing specialist) collaboration partner early on, and smart meters have been difficult to get to work with in practice, we developed enough of an internal model to feel comfortable that we could support the business models that we have been looking at. In many ways, this is the area that gives us least worry, and so we spent more of our time on the other strands.
On the financial side, we have been exploring with a number of utilities how something like HaaS Lite would work, and many variants have been explored. This is not purely theoretical, but looks at real costs for the utilities in terms of acquisition and churn, tariff and logistic complexities. Work is continuing on the business models right up to the end of the project. All of this is subject to pre-commercial discussions, but as a practical matter a flavour of the first scheme or schemes may be visible in the winter of 2018 to 2019.
All the evidence is that while technology is very helpful to help achieve energy savings, having those savings persist, reliably, requires getting the human interaction right. Not just painting chrome on the gadgets. More important, getting the right messaging and feedback from pre-sales time, to many years after any novelty has worn off.
Amongst other work, we asked HACT to test some key hypotheses with social housing focus groups. These included:
- An OpenTRV solution should be fit and forget requiring minimal customer configuration.
- The system supports behavioural changes that support persistent savings over time.
- An OpenTRV system is convenient and therefore leads to long term user buy-in and savings.
The focus groups were small, and from just one of OpenTRV’s target segments (broadly fuel poor or close to, in social housing), and these results should be viewed with that in mind.
In particular, for this group, HACT’s analysis of the focus group data supports the need for an easy to set-up system but challenges the notion of it being a fit and forget.
Easy set-up is a likely win (no programming, etc):
- "Most participants stated that the controls they had were complicated and did not enable them to easily find an optimum comfort level without a number of adjustments and that even with these adjustments maintaining a comfortable temperature was not always possible."
- "These residents were often time poor and expressed that their heating systems were a further complication in already complicated and busy lives, therefore systems that reduce this complication would be welcomed."
- "... difficulty in installation and the perceived difficulty in using smart heating controls is a significant barrier to the uptake of energy saving behaviors, suggesting that controls need to be more user friendly."
- "... fit and forget technology will only be accepted by this demographic if users trust it to reduce bills effectively."
- "... systems that could self-report -sub-optimal performance to a contractor could also be a big bonus for this demographic."
Self-reporting and feedback (direct and indirect) is likely one of the key elements of shared-savings schemes and HaaS.
We also learned to use focus groups to help which questions to answer (qualitative) and then surveys to get enough respondents to get useful numeric result (quantitative).
- The technology is not the hardest part of getting significant persistent energy and carbon savings from HaaS. Gaining and retaining the trust of users in terms of comfort and savings, and continuing simple performance feedback, may be.
- The finances of HaaS seem viable. The recent OpenTRV investment round is an indication of that.
- Gathering enough data about what will make people tick long-term is slow and messy and we have not finished.
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