G6 pay-as-you-go energy meter - developed in social housing sector by ENER-G Switch2 - points way forward for wider industry in response to Citizens Advice Fair Play for Prepay campaign.
Award-winning technology developed within the social housing sector is leading the way in transforming energy prepayment - making it more customer friendly - while helping residents to reduce consumption.
The G6 pay-as-you-go energy meter - from ENER-G Switch2 - is being used across thousands of UK homes connected to community heat networks.
It uses smart wireless technology to replace the traditional corner shop/ token-based pre-payment system, which can be inconvenient and be a potential cause of stigma. Residents can instead 'top-up' by a smartphone app, using landline phone, by direct debit, at a post office, or any Pay Point. 'Quickpay' online payments will also be possible early next year.
As part of its Fair Play for Prepay campaign, Citizens Advice Bureau is calling for the major energy suppliers to 'bring prepayment meters into the 21st century' by offering alternative ways to credit their account.
Commenting on the Citizens Advice campaign, Kirsty Lambert, Director of ENER-G Switch2, said: "Our G6 pay-as-you-go technology demonstrates best practice in action within the community heating sector - showcasing the possibilities of energy prepayment and leading the way for the 'big six' energy suppliers and others to follow."
The G6 technology provides a fair and accurate charging mechanism for both pay-as-you-go and credit billing consumers, with the ability to flex between the two payment methods.
It incorporates a display unit that shows, in graphical form: energy consumed, historical usage, cost of using the system and credit status, including any arrears. This makes it easier for residents to budget and to monitor and manage their energy usage, helping them to reduce consumption and costs.
The technology also includes an audio notification system to advise customers of low credit. It is also possible to remotely send messages to the unit. Residents benefit from an emergency credit and 'friendly disconnection' facility which prevents their supply being cut off at critical times, such as evenings and weekends, or during harsh winter periods.
The G6 technology was first adopted in 2012 by Kirklees Neighbourhood Housing. Other social housing providers and district heating operators have since converted, including Berneslai Homes in Barnsley, Wakefield District Housing, First Choice Homes, St Leger Homes Doncaster, and Sheffield City Council, which is rolling out G6 across 6,000 dwellings.
Residents have opted to move from credit billing to prepayment, using the pay-as-you-go energy technology. Among them, Mr Richard Mokos, of Oldham, said: "I am extremely happy with the G6. I am currently paying between £15-20 a month and I like being on pre-payment as I can manage my budget easier."
Ian McLellan, Kirklees Neighbourhood Housing resident, said: “I am very happy with the G6 unit, it’s very cost effective and I now know exactly how much I am spending, which is brilliant. Different variation in ways to pay is also really helpful, it's easy to use and has been explained to us really well.”
Barry Goodwin, Procurement Project Manager at Kirklees Neighbourhood Housing, said: "The key to reducing energy consumption is being able to see what you are using. With the economy of scale of supplying heat via a district heat network, we already provide lower cost heat, but now residents can track how much energy they are using and are taking action to reduce consumption."
ENER-G Switch2 remotely manages and monitors the G6 system from its customer service centre in Yorkshire. Analysts continually monitor consumer data and can identify exceptional usage patterns or instances where residents frequently opt to disconnect their supply. This serves as an early warning signal to provide support for vulnerable residents, who may not be using the system effectively or efficiently. In a recent case analysts identified that an elderly resident's heating consumption had doubled over a 48 hour period. Staff established that he was immobile after a fall and were able to arrange help via the local housing support team.
ENER-G can fund the cost of introducing the G6 system, as well as any required metering, thereby taking care of the complete metering and billing service.
The technology is not just for use with community energy and multi-fuel schemes; additional meters can be connected for potable water and electricity as it has five data inputs. G6 uses secure wireless GPRS transmission, which simplifies installation and makes the system suitable for both new builds and retrofits of any size, even at a micro scale. The technology avoids any requirement for an expensive building management system to be installed, or Mbus or other hardwired system, which makes it ideal for schemes that are unmetered or where a fuel switch project (from electricity to gas /CHP or renewables) could be considered.