In June 2013 UK Power Networks commissioned CAG to undertake a best practice review of engagement with vulnerable customers, to inform their bid to Ofgem for funding under the Low Carbon Network Funding to undertake a trial of smart meters and time of use tariffs with low income customers. The bid was successful, and UKPN then appointed CAG to act as customer engagement advisor for the duration of the project (2013-2017) with the objective of overseeing the recruitment of customers onto their trial and their ongoing engagement with the trial.
How we delivered the project
The initial research, which was completed to a very tight timeframe in order to meet the Ofgem bid deadline, involved:
- A rapid literature review regarding engagement with vulnerable customers focusing on literature from UK schemes and initiatives but including projects from across the EU as well;
- A review of projects delivered by Distribution Network Operators funded under the Lower Carbon Network Fund, using a template factsheet developed for the project;
- Telephone interviews with expert stakeholders working in the field of customer vulnerability;
- The development of a draft engagement strategy for the proposed project and consultation on this via facilitated workshops with a range of stakeholders; and
- Presentation of the bid documents to Ofgem alongside the UK Power Networks team.
Once the project was funded, CAG was appointed by UKPN as one of the project partners, working with British Gas, UCL, NEA and local community partners. CAG’s role has included:
- Developing the project communications strategy and inputting into the production of the communication materials;
- Developing the participant recruitment protocols;
- Training up a team of local field officers to lead on the customer engagement; and
- Facilitating customer panels to gain feedback about participants’ experiences on the trial.
UKPN’s bid to Ofgem was successful and they were awarded £3.32m under the Low Carbon Network Fund to deliver the Vulnerable Customers and Energy Efficiency project (now rebranded as ‘energywise’). In our subsequent role overseeing the customer recruitment and engagement, we have assisted UKPN in successfully meeting the following objectives:
- Developing the project communications plan which has been approved by Ofgem;
- Successful recruitment and training of a team of locally based field officers; and
- Meeting the project’s target of achieving a sign up rate of one in three customers targeted.
“The CAG team have made valuable contributions to the project and it is a delight to work with them all.” Lynne McDonald, UK Power Networks, Programme Manager – Distribution System Operator Readiness