Heat Decarbonisation


Project Data

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Emerge aims to speed up the process for upgrading customer supplies in the event of an emergency, such as their boiler breaking unexpectedly. Working with our partners, we can improve customer journeys, make it easier for customers to switch to a heat pump, and ensure nobody is left behind in the Net Zero transition.

What is the project about?

It is critical that Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) improve the customer journey process for energy upgrades to enable low carbon heating. The decarbonisation of domestic heating systems is key to delivering Net Zero, with less than 2% of UK domestic households using some form of low carbon heating system.

Our role as a DNO is to enable the uptake of heat pumps by providing successful upgrades of energy supplies in homes. As almost all domestic boiler replacements occur at the point of failure, there is a very narrow once in 15-year opportunity for a domestic household to upgrade to a low carbon alternative.

With the number of installations of low carbon heat pumps in our regions estimated to grow by up to 440,000 per year in the next price control period, we must ensure we carry out energy upgrades in a timely manner for our customers, enabling them to make the switch. Proactive solutions must be developed that address this challenge, particularly around heat, for DNOs to remain an advocate and a facilitator of Net Zero.

How we’re doing it

We’re working with Octopus Energy and third party meter operators to train staff and streamline customer journeys so energy upgrades can be made when an emergency replacement is needed, enabling low carbon heating to be installed.

To help rapidly reduce delivery times for domestic supply upgrades, Emerge will focus on interventions needed to address barriers to low carbon heating upgrades. This is done by developing and trialling digital products to automate and streamline the application and approval required for project partner interventions needed to provide faster supply upgrades triggered by distress or emergency events.

This could accelerate low carbon heating uptake, strengthen DNO’s position to facilitate Net Zero, improve customer satisfaction, and develop collaborative relationships between DNOs, meter operators, and suppliers.

What makes it innovative

With more and more customers looking to make the switch to low carbon technologies, it is essential they continue to get the best possible experience when applying for a supply upgrade. This project will enable us to deliver Net Zero whilst fully understanding our customers’ needs, working with meter operators to deliver world-class customer service.

The project’s real-world trials will be the first in Great Britain to demonstrate the role that third parties could have in undertaking supply upgrades under the circumstances described.

The digital product, a first of its kind, will coordinate third parties in domestic supply upgrades with DNOs. The digital tools developed in Emerge allow new learnings to be created and develop an understanding of how digital products could be used with third parties to realise high levels of customer satisfaction while reducing delivery time for domestic supply upgrades.

What we’re learning

UK Power Networks has developed five key learning outcomes for the project:

  1. Understanding the customer journey, user stories, product requirements, and limitations of using a digital product to automate assessment and approval/rejection of fuse interventions by third parties in response to emergency boiler replacements.
  2. Learning the operational and training requirements of the third party Meter Operators, the barriers to participation, ownership responsibilities, and liabilities.
  3. Exploring the requirements of a training program for third parties to be deemed qualified to undertake aspects of domestic supply upgrades.
  4. Investigating the areas that the digital tools could be further developed and additional benefits that could further help alleviate barriers for the Net Zero transition.
  5. Identifying the processes and procedures required for deployment of Emerge as BaU and opportunities to scale the solution.
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