HOT|COOL NO. 3/2018 - "Digitization"


The biomass boilers use stoves which burn pellets, these stoves are connected to integrated boilers which provide heat and hot water for the building. For areas without a gas supply, a pellet-fuelled biomass boiler is generally much cheaper to run than a traditional electric heating system.

By contrast, with heat, there is no connection to a critical infrastructure. Intelligent heat recording and control in apartment buildings only begin at the central heating system in the cellar and – just like elevator maintenance or stair cleaning – it is the property manager or owner who is responsible for it and orders it for the entire building. In contrast to the huge data volumes of individual power sources which are recorded by smart metering, from the washing machine to the individual lights in different rooms, submetering remains restricted to the metering and visualisation of heat and hot water consumption in an apartment or a property. Complex data profiles are not recorded. The “smart” approach of submetering consists in giving tenants the possibility of controlling their energy consumption by using digital channels to prepare transparent, monthly heat and hot water consumption data. All studies conducted so far on submetering, and on the provision of heat consumption information during the year, show that the savings potential is huge compared to the investment cost. CONNECTING COMMUNITIES Another benefit of digitisation is connectivity, which can make a real difference in rural communities which are a long way from population centres. This was proved during a project in one of the remotest parts of the United Kingdom (UK). The Highland Council is the largest local government region in the whole of the UK, covering an area of 25,657 square kilometres in northern Scotland. Not surprisingly given its size, the area is sparsely populated with a ratio of 9.0 people per square kilometre. The population density is less than one seventh of Scotland’s as a whole, and is a similar ratio to rural areas of Russia. The Highland Council, based in Inverness, is the biggest single UK organisation with a Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme. The RHI programme was set up by the UK Government to encourage uptake of renewable heat technologies amongst householders, communities and businesses through financial incentives. The ground-breaking scheme was the first of its kind in the world, and the Government expects the RHI to contribute towards its 2020 ambition of 12 % of heating coming from renewable sources. The Highland Council called upon ista to help them with a large number of school sites, many of which had biomass boilers installed. Due to the large size of the council’s RHI network, effective management of the biomass boilers is essential. Prior to ista’s involvement, this was a time consuming and difficult task due to the remote geographic location of the sites. The complexity and costs of the network were further complicated due to monthly audits from energy regulator Ofgem.

SMART SOLUTION Initially, we trialled a digital solution at one site. This involved retrofitting an existing meter to enable remote collection of energy data every half hour. This data was then made available on our MinuteView portal. The portal is easy to set up and understand, and provided the council with an integrated management and monitoring system. The software has been designed for landlords, commercial energy users or those in the maintenance sector, so they you can see all their properties and individual meter points. Aligned with current digital trends it’s a mobile first solution optimised for tablets and smartphones, and all the data is processed into highly useful graphical and tabular reports that display the data trends across every site. With instant access to their data, for the first time The Highland Council enjoyed complete visibility and control of the energy data from one of its sites, 24/7 and in real-time. Utilising a cloud based solution enabled the council to remotely view data from the meter and monitor consumption for any signs of wastage or other issues. The trial was deemed to be such a success that the programme was rolled out to 75 sites across the Highland region. With the increased scale of the scheme, fault modules were installed to provide boiler status in near real time and allow any issues to be highlighted remotely via websites, SMS and email alerts. Using the data enabled the council to remotely monitor fuel usage across the sites. Automated monitoring flagged when fuel stocks were running low and predicted when fuel stocks would run out, sending automatic notification to fuel delivery companies to optimise fuel delivery schedules.

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