Housing and regeneration company Keepmoat has announced a partnership with technology business VCharge to deliver a revolutionary solution to over 6,000 UK homes that tackles fuel poverty and digital inclusion.

Keepmoat and VCharge have signed an agreement to work with social housing clients whose portfolios include a large number of high rise blocks with electric storage heat, with the goal of installing the technology in thousands of homes within two years.

The solution can significantly reduce energy bills and carbon emissions as well as provide free WiFi to thousands of residents, while helping to balance the UK electricity grid and encourage the growth of renewable energy.

Electrically-heated high rise blocks typically have high levels of fuel poverty and poor thermal comfort. Electric storage heaters are also difficult to manage, and without daily adjustments to the controls (based on weather conditions) residents are unable to heat their homes properly, leading to over-heating in the morning and under-heating in the evening. This often necessitates the use of expensive supplementary electric heating increasing the fuel poverty burden.

Nigel Banks, Keepmoat Sustainability Director, explains: “The VCharge solution turns practically uncontrollable electric storage heaters into an easily manageable 21st century solution, which could even be adopted in new homes in the future. Most people are unaware of how fast the UK grid has decarbonised in the past four years. For example, heat from direct electricity use at night is now lower carbon than from a gas combi boiler and this is increasing as even more renewables are coming online and coal is phased out.  This system reduces both energy use and carbon emissions, enables low tariffs for all heating and hot water and enables free WiFi to be installed for occupants. It really does revolutionise the way we look at solutions for high rise blocks.”

Kenny Cameron, Vice President Business Development, UK and Ireland for VCharge commented: “Our relationship with Keepmoat is critical to rapidly deploying our solution at scale to support as many residents of high rise blocks as possible. We want to give control back to residents over their electric storage heaters and keep them warmer for longer while cutting their heating bills. We also value our partnership with National Grid to supply next-generation balancing services that bring greater stability and security to our energy supply, and enables us to earn the revenue stream that supports this scheme.”

The installation of free WiFi as part of the solution is another added value service for residents. VCharge uses WiFi to control storage heaters, and enables residents to access the service at no additional cost.

Nigel added: “Access to the internet is vital for most of us yet thousands of people are still unable to afford broadband payments. With 95% of jobs advertised online, as well as the many other financial benefits of being able to access the internet, the positive impact of providing free WiFi for occupants is very clear.”

Pilot projects in the UK have been very encouraging and have  already delivered reductions of around 20% energy use through better controls and when combined with a very low cost ‘anytime heating and hot water’ tariff, have reduced heating bills by between 25%  and 40%.