Every energy user relies on their energy supplier to enable them to keep our lights on and stay warm at home – but those who are vulnerable require even greater support from their suppliers. With the number of customers in vulnerable situations set to rise as our population ages and the impact of COVID-19 continues to affect many peoples’ jobs and wellbeing, Ambion could help suppliers to meet these customers’ needs.
The latest figures from Ofgem show that around 24% of gas and electricity users are on suppliers’ Priority Service Registers (PSR), a free service that provides vulnerable customers with extra support in a number of areas. There are a wide range of reasons why a customer might be classed as ‘vulnerable’ (for example, they might be over pensionable age, have a physical or mental disability, or be on a low income) and suppliers must ensure that they provide inclusive services to ensure these customers can access any additional support they may require.
What support is available to vulnerable customers?
There are a number of legal obligations for suppliers to provide support for vulnerable customers. Those on a PSR should receive priority support in an emergency, for example, be provided with any information relating to their account in an accessible format, and be able to put extra measures in place to make identifying supplier representatives easier for them.
Since 2013, the Energy Company Obligation has placed legal obligations on larger energy suppliers to deliver energy efficiency measures to domestic premises. While the scheme’s primary aim is to help to reduce the UK’s carbon emissions, the latest iteration of the scheme – ECO3 – focuses solely on low-income and vulnerable households and seeks to reduce fuel poverty.
Under ECO3, vulnerable homeowners and landlords of vulnerable tenants can apply for grants to install a range of energy efficiency technologies. Currently, these technologies include loft insulation, cavity or solid wall insulation and new boilers, and the grant can also be used to install heating controls or connect homes to district heating networks. While these measures could certainly improve the living conditions of many vulnerable customers, we believe that the list of supported efficiency measures is too limited at this point in time.
New technologies, like Ambion’s computer-controlled infrared heating system (CCIR), can provide significant benefits to vulnerable customers and help suppliers to meet their energy efficiency obligations – however, these customers are not yet able to receive a grant for Ambion’s technology under ECO3.
Bringing the benefits of Ambion to vulnerable customers
When it comes to heating the homes of vulnerable customers, Ambion is the ideal solution because it helps those in need to:
Keep their energy bills low
Many vulnerable customers experience fuel poverty, which means they can’t afford to heat their homes adequately on their income. This means that many pensioners and families on low incomes are at risk of going into debt in order to stay warm or experiencing health problems due to living in a cold environment.
Ambion’s bespoke technology enables each heater to learn about the room it’s operating within and only pulse electricity when necessary to maintain an ambient temperature. Combined with the intrinsic benefits of infrared, this means Ambion uses 60% less energy than conventional convection heating. It also means Ambion doesn’t turn up substantially during peak demand periods (unlike conventional convection heating). This enables vulnerable users to avoid periods when electricity costs are higher – so those on flexible tariffs can save over 20% of the cost of each unit of energy they use.
Stay warm round-the-clock
For older people or those in poor health, warmth can make a real difference to their wellbeing. However, those with conventional central heating systems may find that they are constantly turning their thermostat up and down to maintain their ideal temperature, and keeping central heating on all day can be extremely costly.
Ambion’s computer-controlled system is different – it’s at its most effective when it’s running 24/7, which means that vulnerable customers can benefit from an optimum level of warmth without worrying about extortionate energy bills. And as infrared heats the material within a room, rather than the air (which then escapes from doors and windows), the room should maintain an ambient temperature for longer when heated with infrared than with traditional convection systems.
Feel more comfortable
Vulnerable people, particularly those that spend a lot of time at home, can really benefit from the increased comfort levels Ambion can provide. Infrared heat is often likened to standing in direct sunlight, which means many people find that infrared heating provides a more natural, comfortable warmth than other types of heating.
Ambion can also improve the air quality within a home, as it doesn’t circulate air like conventional convection heating does, which means there’s usually less circulating dust in homes heated by Ambion. By heating the walls of the building, Ambion can also prevent damp from occurring, and even reduce existing damp, which makes for a healthier, more comfortable environment for vulnerable people – particularly those with respiratory conditions.
Suppliers could benefit too
It’s not just vulnerable customers who can benefit from Ambion – suppliers could also benefit from our system, because it could be an extremely cost-effective way for them to meet their ECO. Ambion is cheaper to install than many other low-carbon heating alternatives – in a typical three-bedroomed house, for example, the estimated capital cost of installing one of Ambion’s systems is around £6,000, compared to nearly £10,500 for an air source heat pump.
However, many suppliers will be deterred from investing in Ambion and other new energy efficiency technologies because they are yet to be included in the list of eligible technologies under ECO3. This is disappointing, because clearly there are significant benefits Ambion could bring to vulnerable customers.