"Joint billing is not the thing that makes your consumption more efficient. We can see this in the housing divisions that now have individual water meters. People go from not caring to having a much greater interest in it, and they become much more conscious that it costs money every time you turn a tap on. It's pure consumer behaviour."
Niels Munthe, Energy Manager at ALBOA.
Energy saving consumers
Public housing association ALBOA, was established on 1 January 2011, the result of a merger between three housing associations in and around Aarhus. The merger meant that ALBOA was now responsible for the administration and leasing of approx. 7,000 homes distributed across 80 housing divisions. The majority of the homes are in multi-storey buildings that were built in a period stretching from the end of the 50s to the start of the 70s. However, the portfolio also includes more modern buildings, such as low-rise terrace houses. A pair of new low-energy housing divisions were added in more recent times, and several of these homes already meet the energy requirements for 2020.
The major difference from housing division to housing division is not just reflected by the housing stock. It is also evident by the way water and energy metering is carried out. Today, around a third of ALBOA's 82 housing divisions have individual water meters installed, while another third has no individual meters installed at all. The remaining third of residents are billed directly by the utility company.
"We haven't set any specific energy and climate targets in ALBOA. We can start some initiatives and give energy efficiency a push in the right direction, but at the end of the day, it's the residents who pay, so it's they who decide. Saying that, many of our residents really want to be green and energy conscious. In general, ALBOA's energy consumption has fallen in the last few years. We're also involved in energy projects all the time. It may be investments in new windows, insulation and the renovation of installations," says Niels Munthe.
"A housing division with 156 leases has saved more than 50% in water consumption after individual meters were installed. In round figures, they save 6,000 cubic metres. In the final analysis, this means the tenants benefit from annual savings of around DKK 300,000."
Niels Munthe, Energy Manager at ALBOA.
Individual metering makes perfect sense
Even though individual water metering may look like a good deal for all of the parties involved, the energy manager admits that rolling it out to all of the divisions in the housing association is not that simple. Every investment increases the rent, so there has to be a financial gain for the residents. This is why ALBOA makes precise economic calculations, before they install individual meters in residents’ homes. And there can be major differences in its effect, from housing division to housing division, and from apartment to apartment.
The experience from the first years with individual metering shows, however, that individual metering is being well received, once in operation.
"It makes perfect sense and it's something most people can understand, so you don't end up paying for the neighbour taking a bath four times a day. Of course some people get a bit of a surprise when the first bill arrives, but even those with extreme levels of water consumption, significantly reduce their consumption once they have a water meter installed," says Niels Munthe.
According to ALBOA's energy manager, more and more housing divisions will start measuring individual consumption in the years ahead.
"I expect that during the next few years, we will see a great many of the housing divisions will have meters installed. It's partly driven by the fact that we have to renovate the older pipe systems, partly by a new EU directive that is expected in 2017, demanding individual metering in the long term," says Niels Munthe.