Government-backed trial of new smart energy control technology set to automate access to cheaper and cleaner energy

Categories: Research, School of Science, Engineering and Environment

The University of Salford has joined forces with the smart technology innovator Hildebrand, Utilita and the Data Communications Company (DCC), to demonstrate how a new ‘Smart Energy Control’ Internet of Things (IoT) device can completely automate a home’s energy use in response to periods of cheaper, and cleaner energy availability.

The revolutionary trial is being funded by the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero to innovate the functionality of the smart meter system in the interest of reaching its 2050 net zero obligation.

At the centre of the trial is Hildebrand’s new innovation - a Standalone Auxiliary Proportional Controller (SAPC) - a device connected to the DCC communications infrastructure, that communicates with and proportionally controls power loads within the home, including internet-connected white goods, heat pumps, energy storage batteries used in conjunction with solar PV, and the charging of electric vehicles. 

The new hub will enable an automatic shift of the power consumption - up or down, or on and off - of connected items in response to the National Grid energy mix, enabling savings for the pocket, and less reliance on fossil fuels for the planet. The innovation will see households better equipped to respond to the UK’s Electricity System Operator’s (ESO) Demand Flexibility Service (DFS), for example. 

Utilita’s role in the trial will be to install the new Smart Energy Control hub technology into homes that use low carbon technologies such as heat pumps, EV chargers and solar battery storage, and track the technology’s performance in helping to reduce energy consumption. The trial is due to begin in August 2024 and will run for six months. 

As the UK’s only supplier with a 95 percent smart-installed customer base, for more than a decade, Utilita has been an early adopter of smart Internet of Things (IoT) innovations, recognising its importance to influence and achieve the journey towards net zero, and reducing households’ energy spend. The supplier’s focus in this area is further supported by their research around human behaviour change and habit forming, and how the IoT can help to influence and shape positive change for good.       

Archie Lasseter, Head of Sustainability at Utilita, comments on the trial: “The ESO Demand Flexibility Service is vital in helping homes access cheaper and greener energy, but its reliance on consumers to act is one of its main challenges. 

“As experts in consumer energy behaviour, and based on our recent consumer focus groups with those who took part in Utilita’s Power Payback sessions, we identified the reliance on consumers to remember to make changes was one of the scheme’s biggest challenges. Despite the greatest intentions, life gets in the way of making changes at home. 

“Hildebrand’s Energy Control technology will enable an automatic adjustment of the energy consumption of connected technologies, meaning the customer can benefit from the savings without giving it a second thought - this is a big turning point for a truly smart home.”  

Ioannis Paraskevas, Lead of the Smart Meters > Smart Homes Lab, Energy House Labs, University of Salford comments on the wider positive implications of the project: “The utilisation of the Smart DCC as the platform for accessing sensing signals combined with Hildebrand’s SAPC will enable energy flexibility services to roll-out across the UK’s domestic sector more widely. Furthermore, monitoring the internal temperature and humidity of domestic buildings could drive high-impact research and innovation and enable data-driven policy making on retrofitting, assessing the thermal performance of the existing housing stock and new-built homes as well as on identifying households in fuel poverty and potentially alleviate this state through bespoke measures.”

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