First Choice Homes Oldham (FCHO) – tackling fuel poverty

The customer

Oldham Metropolitan Council’s Arm’s Length Management Organisation (ALMO), First Choice Homes Oldham (FCHO), was created in April 2002 to manage council owned properties across Oldham Metropolitan Borough. They now provide services to over 15,500 council tenants and leaseholders in Oldham.

The challenge

Residents living in council housing in Oldham were paying higher energy bills simply because their property does not have heat metering and controls in place. Instead each resident has no choice but to pay a fixed weekly charge irrespective of their individual consumption. The weekly charge can be more than double that of what it would be given if they were on a controlled system with a metered supply. With soaring heating costs putting some residents into fuel poverty, FCHO realised they needed to address this issue by installing meters into the properties.

Solution

Committed to their pledge to eradicate fuel poverty in the area, FCHO selected Switch2 to supply, install and maintain heating controls and energy meters across 2,000 properties in the Oldham area. Switch2’s purpose built consumer control panel acts as a metering point for heat and incorporates the necessary equipment to provide the residents with control over their heating and domestic hot water.

Switch2 used an innovative radio automatic meter reading (AMR) system, which has been chosen for its versatility and suitability for a city-wide network. Meters will be read remotely removing the need to enter the resident’s property. This system ensures that they only pay for the energy they have consumed.

Switch2 are also responsible for the maintenance of the dwellings internal systems including the radiators and domestic hot water cylinders, and a guaranteed response time has been agreed with FCHO should any problems arise. A billing and administration service will also form part of Switch2’s total metering solution.

Outcome

Switch2 are proactively supporting fuel poverty alleviation initiatives and in Oldham have brought together a package, which enables residents to access affordable, controllable warmth. The system is simple to use and the residents have the peace of mind that they have access to a call-out service in the event of a problem.

Fuel bills for the 2,000 households have been cut by up to 60%. Following the installation of retrofitting ‘smart’ heat metering systems and consumer control panels, our consumer accounts team can confirm that after taking seasonal factors and degree days into consideration, some residents who previously paid over £60 a month in heating have seen figures drop to below £25.

Martin Latham, Heating Manager for FCHO commented:
“It was clear right away that Switch2’s systems would result in reduced fuel costs for the vast majority of tenants but, critically, it would also introduce real fairness. For the first time, tenants would be in control and manage their fuel usage themselves. Within 3 months of installation of the Switch2 system, results show a substantial reduction in fuel costs for the vast majority of tenants and it has also introduced real fairness as well as comfort levels across the sites.”

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