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Project Background

Smart monitoring of domestic electricity use has begun to enable individual consumers to understand their use of energy. As a consequence some users are modifying their usage and hence reducing their bills. If such changes can be encouraged on a national or European scale, then very significant energy savings and environmental benefits will be achieved. If users are willing to share some of this information with their suppliers in real-time, then it is almost certain that further operating efficiencies can be achieved throughout the supply chain.

This project will build on the electricity supply industry’s experience by developing and trialling equivalent monitoring technology for measuring domestic water consumption. The supply of clean water and disposal of wastewater are energy intensive processes. A change of water use behaviour therefore not only has the potential to reduce the consumers’ costs but also to extend the life of our present water resource and wastewater systems and to reduce the demand for energy with its consequent environmental benefits. Smart monitoring (involving devices that allow continuous electronic reading, transmittal and display of the water consumption) has so far focused on the supply side, i.e., at major facilities and input points to the system with the main aim of monitoring leakage in the distribution system or billing bulk customers, rather than on the demand side, at the user’s premises.

It is well known that there are significant inefficiencies in domestic water use and that leaks and dripping taps account for as much as 10-15% of all indoor water use, although they can go unnoticed and uncorrected for long periods. For example, a dripping tap could waste as much as 150 litres in a single week1. If householders could be made aware of where water is being used to no benefit and could be encouraged to change their habits, then significant savings could be made in terms of the quantity of water and energy required without any significant change of lifestyle or quality.

Most of the technologies and techniques to bring about this change exist and are proven. However, they have yet to be brought together as an integrated system that could be put into production and rolled out across Europe. There are, of course, a number of gaps in both the technologies and techniques and these need to be researched and solutions found. Little work has yet been done on how the techniques and technologies will be brought together to achieve the EC policy aims. This needs to be addressed at the strategic level, the business level and the technical level. At the strategic level the roles of all players need to be understood from the EC, through national governments, national and regional implementing agencies, utilities, system developers, installers and so on down to householders. At the business level, the creation, production, implementation and use of the systems has to confer benefits to all the participants. At the technical level, there must be the interfaces that will allow all the separately developed components to be brought together and integrated.