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A helping hand for local authorities responding to the climate emergency


24 November 2021 

A helping hand for local authorities responding to the climate emergency

Industry comment by Craig Mellor, Director, Deer Technology Ltd 

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Local authorities and combined authorities have a key role to play in addressing the global climate emergency. Indeed, it is estimated that 82%of UK emissions are within the scope of influence of LAs[1]. Now the UK Government has published the national Net Zero Strategy and Heat and Buildings Strategy, there is a better understanding of what is expected of local government - though Westminster has not imposed local Net Zero strategy targets. In many cases, however, LAs have already set their own goals and local Net Zero Strategies.

Alongside the challenges facing LAs, there are also opportunities, most notably in the form of grant funding. For example:

  • Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme Phase 3- £1.425 billion over the period 2022/2023 to 2024/2025 to support heat decarbonisation and energy efficiency measures in public sector buildings.
  • Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund- £800m for energy-efficiency improvements to social housing.

Considerable investments are expected to be made in replacing gas-fired boilers with air-source heat pumps (ASHPs) powered by (hopefully) sustainably generated electricity. These retrofits to the existing housing stock will improve energy efficiency, contribute to decarbonisation and, of course, help steer the UK towards its target of achieving Net Zero by 2050.

An additional benefit of energy-efficient ASHPs for social housing isthat they help toalleviate the problem of fuel poverty. Although household electricity bills will increase due to consumption by the ASHP, these households will no longer be using gas-fired heating and should pay less overall for their energy.

In a similar vein, millions of pounds of funding will help to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles. If EV charging points are installed for social housing properties, electricity bills will increase again, even though the household's expenditure on petrol or diesel will either fall or be eliminated.

Despite the net savings, householders withnewly-installedASHPs and EV charging points are likely to be concerned at the rise in electricity bills. One way to help quell concern is with better meter reading and improved visibility of consumption data. More on this later.

From a local authority's point of view, there are many possible approaches to decarbonisation and improving energy efficiency, a few examples of which are: switch to sustainable sources of energy; use energy more efficiently; cut waste; and do things differently so as to use less energy. Whatever changes are made, it is important to have accurate measurements of consumption before and after, otherwise the true scale of the benefits will never be known.

Let us consider, for example, electricity consumption in a small block of flats. Each household will have its own electricity meter, plus there will be a meter for electricity consumption in communal areas - such as lighting for the exterior, hall and corridors, and lifts if the building has them. When a housing association can see patterns of consumption, households that use more energy can be identified so they can be helped to reduce consumption. If one household's consumption is particularly high or low, it could be an indication of energy theft. Were the housing association to upgrade all communal lighting from incandescent and fluorescent lamps to LED lamps, the ‘before and after' data could help inform decisions about how quickly other properties should be retrofitted with LED lighting.

Looking beyond the social housing example above, local authorities need to improve energy efficiency and decarbonise their entire estates. These might include town halls, offices, sports and leisure facilities, entertainment centres, schools, libraries, commercial premises, and museums and galleries. The size of the challenge is formidable but the potential benefits are substantial.

Earlier we hinted at the importance of metering and the visibility of consumption data, for which remote meter reading has much to offer. But there is another benefit of upgrading meters for remote reading: reduced carbon emission associated with meter readings. With conventional meters, somebody needs to travel in a van to the meter's location and back again. Despite multiple meters being read during the course of each trip, the carbon dioxide emissions per meter add up over time. We have calculated that if 100 meters are read per week, the greenhouse gas emission associated with the van over a period of five years could amount to 31.2 tonnes of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent).

Cost-effective decarbonisation

It has to be said that smart metering has not lived up to expectations. The roll-out has been slow, compatibility issues have persisted, and poor signal coverage means some smart meters only operate as dumb meters.

Fortunately, Deer Technology'sLimpetReaderoffers a cost-effective and environmentally-friendly alternative.Thisclever,battery-powered opto-electronic device is attached to an existing analogue meter's faceplate with optical tape or adhesive. Installation only takes around 10 minutes because there is no need to dismantle the meter or interrupt the supply. The meter's register remains visible should a visual read be necessary, and dual-register meters have one LimpetReader for each register.

If a LimpetReader is removed or tampered with, this can be identified via the data output, which helps to detect and deter energy theft.

Carbon dioxide emissions associated with meter readings are eliminated because vans never need to be used for meter readings. The patented LimpetReader is unique among automated reading systems in that readings are classified as ‘visual' for regulatory purposes.

Each ultra-compact LimpetReader device incorporates multiple micro-cameras for imaging the register. The images are date- and time-stamped before being transmitted to Deer Technology's secure server.

Images are sent to the server via the mobile phone network using proven GSM technology. Up to 16 LimpetReader devices can be linked to a single AutoReader transmitter, which is ideal for housing associations with multiple tenants in a single building.

Once the individual images have been uploaded to the server, they are stitched together to create a high-quality, distortion-free image of the meter's register. Software then converts the register image to a numerical value, which is stored with the image. Data and images can be accessed by the customer in a variety of ways, depending on the requirements. Deer Technology's comprehensive service covers everything from installation through to data management.

We estimate that Local authorities in Great Britain have more than a million analogue electricity meters that could be converted to smart meters using LimpetReader devices, greatly assisting decarbonisation. Already LimpetReaders are being used very effectively in numerous applications in social housing, sports and leisure facilities, offices and commercial premises throughout the UK.

So far we have discussed electricity metering but LimpetReaders are equally applicable to water metering. Water consumption has a carbon footprint - think of the energy required for processing and pumping fresh water and waste water. Monitoring water consumption is a powerful way to identify leaks so they can repaired quickly and wastage minimised.

Furthermore, leaking hot water taps will result in additional carbon dioxide emissions due to the energy required to heat the wasted water. We have calculated that a hot water tap left running for a year would cost around £10,600 and result in 25.2 tonnes of CO2e emissions. Again,it is thought local authority estates have millions of potential applications for retrofitting LimpetReader devices to water meters.

Find out more about Deer Technology's LimpetReader for remote meter reading at, telephone 01639 363146 or


[1] ‘Net Zero Strategy: Build Back Greener', HMG, October 2021.


With Compliments:            
Taylor Alden
7 Bell Yard
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