Author: Derek Roddy, CEO & co-founder of Climote When it comes to dealing with major issues such as energy efficiency and tackling fuel poverty, the challenge can seem so immense that it is difficult to know how to make a lasting difference. The challenge for Government departments, State agencies and local authorities is to make decisions that have an immediate effect with a profound and measurable impact. Louth County Council, working with its project partners Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), Kingspan, Sustainable Development Capital LLP (SDCL) and Electric Ireland, is aiming to tackle the issue of energy efficiency by completing the largest social-housing regeneration scheme in Europe. When complete, over 2,000 homes in the county will have been upgraded with Climote remote-control heating systems and a further 100 homes will have received a full energy upgrade including cavity-wall insulation from Kingspan. Sometimes, the most successful engineering projects are in fact the simplest ones to execute. To give a context of the scale of what has been carried out by Louth County Council, the project is by far the largest physical regeneration of a social housing project in Europe. This project has had enquiries from other public bodies responsible for housing across Europe and, before Christmas, Climote hosted the most senior officials from the British Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). They are keen to see how, working in tandem with the major energy-utility companies in the UK, they can replicate the innovative scheme that is being carried out in County Louth. Sometimes it can take outsiders to point out how successful a scheme has been. This project is a classic case in point, as in Ireland there is a tendency to look past what is done and focus instead on what has been yet to be done. However, European leaders in the area of energy efficiency have marveled to us about the scale of the project and how little it has cost the local authority to complete. In simple terms, this regeneration scheme has proven successful because of the close partnership forged between all the key components in the scheme. We started with the idea that any product or service must be designed to be simple and easy to use for every consumer, regardless of their age and even regardless of their technical knowledge. That is why Climote, with its one-touch programming, was a key part of this project. Thousands of homeowners in the four corners of the world were already using Climote, having an immediate effect on their energy costs.

Pilot project in Dundalk

[caption id="attachment_19110" align="alignright" width="640"]Climote Louth Old thermostats from Louth Regeneration Project[/caption] Louth County Council has an entire housing stock of approximately 4,000 homes spread right throughout the county and the council has always tried to be forward-thinking when it comes to energy innovation. In order to measure the success of the plan, a pilot project was deployed in Cooley Park, Dundalk. Working side by side with the local community, the pilot project saw Climote technology installed in 40 homes, which incorporated a broad selection of demographics – young families, elderly living alone, young single people, those that were fuel poor and indeed private residences. This cross section of homes and families gave a broad sample for Louth County Council to examine the exact energy savings in each of the 40 homes. The council had examined a selection of digital-heating controllers and they ultimately chose Climote as their preferred partner for this pilot project, as, at the time, the company had recently won three major national awards at the 2013 SEAI Energy Show. Louth County Council began trialling the remote-control home heating system in Cooley Park in October 2013. Almost immediately, it was apparent that the piloting of the home-heating system was having a significant impact on reducing the heating costs for residents, which was a key component in allowing the council to measure the success or otherwise of its scheme. A significant additional aspect of the project was when Climote agreed to take over all inbound calls from the residents relating to issues with the heating-control system. This immediately freed up the council staff to focus on actual energy upgrade work. From the perspective of Louth County Council, Climote’s easy-to-use interface meant that there was a significant reduction in the number of complaints and calls from the homeowners and, of the calls received, some 95% could be resolved remotely through the Climote call centre. As a result, only issues relating to the remainder of the home-heating issues or boiler maintenance were escalated to Louth County Council for call out, meaning the drain on the council’s resources was significantly reduced. Following the installation of the heating system, residents of Cooley Park reported an increase in average savings in energy costs for the entire year in excess of €690 per annum. The BER ratings of each of the homes also dramatically improved. The ease of use of the interface meant that the residents were able to adjust the heat in their home without any difficulty. Importantly for Louth County Council, the Climote system can be accessed remotely. From the perspective of the homeowner, the system can be operated remotely from anywhere in the world via the Climote app, web portal or simple text message. Residents reported their happiness at being able to adjust the temperature in their house while abroad or on holidays. Interestingly, for the first time ever, Louth County Council Housing Department received Christmas cards from its residents.

Efficient system benefiting residents

[caption id="attachment_19112" align="alignright" width="640"]Climote Louth Maria McGennis, resident in Cooley Park, Dundalk; Stephen Cull, Louth County Council; and Alan McKenna, Climote[/caption] A previous scheme completed elsewhere in Louth had led to complaints from residents to the council that their heating-controlling systems were either too complicated or were not working – and were, in fact, costing them more. These issues were causing a major drain on council resources, in particular a high volume of calls received by the council. Without remote access to the installed heating-control systems, Louth County Council was unable to diagnose and resolve these issues. It had two full-time vans on the road, which were supposed to be dealing with their day-to-day tasks of inspecting boilers or measuring CO2, but instead they had to call out to resolve issues relating to the heating-control systems. In the Dundalk pilot project, it was obvious from all the data collected and energy saved that residents were benefiting and Louth County Council was also benefitting. This pilot and its success resulted in the decision to proceed to a much-larger scale. Detailed planning with other stakeholders means that in the current project, over 2,000 homes will have been upgraded with Climote remote-control heating systems, with a further 100 homes receiving a full energy upgrade. The Louth County Council Regeneration Scheme has proved to be a success for the council, Climote and, most importantly, the residents. We know this from talking to the families involved and from the real-time feedback we can get from the users of Climote. From a wider perspective, the Regeneration Scheme has seen Louth Council Council play its part in helping to transform Ireland into a society based on sustainable energy structures, technologies and practices. With strong leadership from the Council and through its efforts with key partners such as the energy companies, the council made energy efficiency a key priority. It has taken decisive steps towards implementing these plans, which are helping to radically reduce energy intensity and usage among the homes for which they are responsible. Climote’s introduction into the Regeneration Scheme has seen it play an important role in helping Louth County Council achieve its goals of reducing energy costs, improve the BER ratings of its housing stock and have an overall positive impact on the residents. An added and unintentional benefit has been the impact on job creation in the area arising from this project. As a local company from Dundalk, Climote has expanded and recruited from the Louth area and will continue to do so. So, in summary, this scheme has had an immediate effect with a profound and measurable impact.