Heat Decarbonisation

Heat Street: local system planning

Project Data

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Heat Street is a first of its kind research project to help communities map out their Net Zero carbon future at street level. The project took a data-driven look into the future to help local authorities and community energy groups forecast and plan for future deployment of energy efficiency and low carbon heating solutions. View our interactive data maps.

What is the project about?

The overarching aim of this project was to understand the granular options for decarbonisation of heat and the likely impact on consumers, local authorities, policy makers and the electricity network. This is helping UKPN and stakeholders understand where they can best support the transition to decarbonised heat.

In order to reach Net Zero by 2050, major infrastructure decisions need to be made to support the uptake of low carbon technologies. With electric heat pumps and electric vehicle use projected to rise dramatically in the future, the distribution networks are key in facilitating the transition.

Decarbonising heat is a challenge because of its complexity and unclear future policy direction. This project focused on understanding how Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) can support Net Zero by facilitating the decarbonisation of the heat sector.

In March 2020, we published a short term Heat Strategy to proceed with the least regret actions and support early adopters. Heat Street was one of our first heating-focused projects. Its findings are helping decision makers understand, mitigate and prepare for the potential impact of electric heating.

How we’re doing it

The project carried out a study looking at three themes to support progression of UK Power Networks’ heat strategy:

  • Energy efficiency measures
  • Options for decarbonising heat
  • Uptake modelling and Impact on the UKPN network

We hosted workshops with local councils, businesses, academics and consumer groups to ensure that the study accurately reflected the current market and emerging trends regarding energy efficiency and low carbon heating technologies.

The project considered a broad range of low carbon heating alternatives, including electric heat pumps, hydrogen, biogas, electric resistive heating, hybrids of different technologies and district heating.

What makes it innovative

The use of DNO-led zoning as a way to identify how areas are mostly likely to decarbonise their heat has not been carried out in Great Britain before. Although energy efficiency through flexibility arrangements could be used currently, this project looked at the intersection between energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation, of which there is very little available information.

This project created a first-of-its kind picture of low carbon heating. This is especially valuable given:

  • The uncertainty of uptake of energy efficiency measures and low carbon heating in the future while policy continues to develop
  • The potential impact that heat decarbonisation will have on customer bills, particularly customers living in fuel poverty

What we’re learning

There are 7.9 million domestic buildings and close to 770,000 commercial buildings in the UKPN licence areas. Of these, 85% of domestic and 47% of commercial buildings are heated by natural gas or oil boilers, directly emitting carbon dioxide on-site. The project found that heating in buildings in the UKPN licence areas causes 26 Mt CO2 emissions per year, 6% of the UK’s 2019 greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, approximately 60% of buildings in the UKPN licence areas have an Energy Performance Certificate of D or below. The total thermal energy demand for space heat and hot water in UKPN areas of 119 TWh is equivalent to 37% of the UK’s total 2019 electricity generation.

By assessing the performance of a combination of heating system with energy efficiency improvements, the project modelling was able to capture the dependencies between the two. In some cases, in particular with heat pumps, a technology was found to be unsuitable in the absence of energy efficiency improvements, and in general, the cost-effectiveness of technologies was influenced by the accompanying efficiency measures.

The key learnings can be summarised in these three key topic areas:

  • Exploring potential heat decarbonisation pathways
  • Assessing the implications of energy efficiency uptake
  • For granular zones, assessing implications of each pathway

Project results have been published in the ‘Reports & Documents’ tab below.

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