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Turning up the heat on metering regs

Published: 24 May 2016 - Sarah Mead

The 31 December 2015 signalled a new world when it comes to billing heating for property managers who supply heat via centralised plant. David Barnes, managing director of Smart Metering Services at adi Group, considers how the latest amendment to Heat Network (Metering & Billing) Regulations 2014 can be expected to impact the sector.

When it comes to energy management, 2016 will be a year to remember. Soon the UK government will publish its fifth carbon budget, further highlighting energy efficiency as a priority after the most significant ever commitment to climate change took place in the shape of the Paris Agreement towards the end of last year. And it’s not just new legislation that is putting energy management top of the list. The EU’s target to cut carbon by 20 per cent is just four years away, making the need to measure and manage the energy use of buildings more important than ever before.

To support that drive, 2016 will see the implementation of the Heat Network (Metering & Billing) Regulation 2014, which requires eligible organisations to install heat meters by the end of December. Born out of the European Union’s 2012 Energy Efficiency Directive, the UK legislation requires anyone supplying and charging for heat, cooling or hot water to fit heat meters that accurately measure, memorise and display the energy consumption of the end-users, and of some buildings. That information must then be used to bill customers fairly, based on actual consumption where it is cost effective to do so.

In practice, the regulations apply to all district heating and communal heating schemes in the country. By December 2015, these organisations should have notified the National Measurement and Regulation Office (NMRO), the enforcement body for the legislation, of the details of each heat network they plan to install. If through initial analysis an eligible organisation found that the installation of heat meters was not cost effective or technically feasible, they would have had the opportunity to opt out, although they will still be required to install alternatives. For both, the notification process will need to be repeated every four years, from the date of the original notification.

Another important point is the type of meter fitted. The regulations state that the chosen meter must “accurately measure, memorise and display the consumption of heating, cooling or hot water by the final customer”*. While the regulations don’t specify technical parameters for accuracy and quality, meters approved by the Measuring Instruments Directive (MID) are generally accepted by NMRO to meet the regulations. Conversely, where a meter is not approved under the MID, it will most likely require further investigation by the NMRO, and may not be accepted – meaning that the organisation will fall foul of the regulations despite installing a new system*.

While the mandated installation of heat meters in every heat networked multi-occupancy building will be an investment from the building owner, a modern heat metering system can offer several benefits when it comes to a building operating efficiently. As a result, building managers may find that the work offers a good chance to take stock of any other needs within the building. For instance, building level meters can play an important part in supporting the maintenance and efficiency of the overall system through identifying in-building losses.

Heat meters can also play an important role in managing those areas responsible for a large percentage of a building’s energy use, such as the plant room itself. Here, metering can be used to understand the efficiency of plant equipment, helping organisations to see when it is no longer cost effective and supporting decisions to invest in new energy efficient replacements.

At the same time, buildings in receipt of the Renewable Heat Incentive would be wise to fit a meter at the source of generation. It’s a move that can reduce management overheads and simplify reporting, while helping to detect issues with the system and ensure receipt of the correct payment tariff. Of course, billing customers appropriately for their energy use is an advantage in itself, in the sense that individual customers who make an effort to reduce their energy use will finally see the benefit – a move sure to result in a business community that is more motivated in its energy saving efforts.

Here, best practice can help the task to run much more smoothly and efficiently. A system with Automatic Metering Reading (AMR) and Automatic Monitoring and Targeting (AM&T) will get the best out of the system, although it is recommended that these systems are kept separate to make switching providers easier in the future. Together the AMR and AM&T systems will amass a vast amount of data which can be used not only for billing, but for management reports, compliance, and improved energy management. It’s worth making sure that the system is equipped with open or proprietary-open protocols from a future proofing perspective.  

Efficiencies can also be made by appointing the right consultant for the job. A one-size-fits-all solution is rarely the right way forward for smart metering, and an ‘off the shelf’ package can cause problems further down the line, so check that a consultant will carry out a site visit and full survey before making any recommendations. Looking at their portfolio of completed work can be a good indication of the level that they operate at, with solutions for blue chip clients usually demanding a higher degree of complexity.

At the same time, choosing a consultant that can provide an end-to-end service will pay dividends, in terms of both the project management efficiencies that can be gained, and the convenience of having one point of contact throughout.

Accreditations are another important factor, providing clients with peace of mind in terms of the quality of work they can expect and a rigorous approach to health and safety. Key accreditations to look out for include OHSAS 18001, and where mains powered devices are installed, BS 7671 17th Edition Electrical Wiring Regulations.

Ongoing maintenance is an important part of compliance with the new regulations, so it’s worth checking the calibre of any after sales support offered by consultancy services. It’s vital to find out whether support services are powered by knowledgeable engineers, and what any service level agreement includes. 

By sourcing a selection of experienced full service consultancies, energy and facilities managers can safeguard budgets, and specifiers can both protect their investment and further ensure that the full potential of their new system can be realised.

adi Smart Metering services is a fully accredited and offers full end-to-end services for customers. For more information, visit www.adiltd.co.uk

*https://www.gov.uk/guidance/heat-networks#regs 



 
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