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Heat Street: local system planning

Heat Street is a first of its kind research project to help communities map out their Net Zero carbon future at street level. It will take a data-driven look into the future to help local authorities forecast and plan the increased adoption of energy efficiency and low carbon heating solutions.

Project-on-a-Page summary

Project data

Start date: 01/07/2020
End date: 15/05/2021
Budget: £318,652

In order to reach Net Zero by 2050, major infrastructure decisions need to be made in the near future and quickly implemented to support the uptake of low carbon technologies. With the electric heat pumps and electric vehicle use projected to rise dramatically in the future, we believe our distribution network is at the centre of facilitating the transition.

While the energy and transport sectors are making progress in reducing carbon intensity, there is still significantly more to do and there has been little movement in heating. Decarbonisation of heat is the most challenging area because of its complexity, unclear future direction and because government policy is still developing. This is particularly true when it comes to upgrading homes and businesses.

So we’re focusing our efforts on understanding how Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) can support Net Zero by facilitating the decarbonisation of the heat sector.

In March, we published a short term Heat Strategy to proceed with the least regret actions and support early adopters. Heat Street is one of our first heating-focused projects, and it will help us develop enablers to help decision makers understand, mitigate and prepare for the potential impact of electric heating.

The project is carrying out three separate streams of work to support progression of UK Power Networks’ heat strategy:

–Workstream 1: analysis of energy efficiency measures
– Workstream 2: options for decarbonising heating
– Workstream 3: electric heating uptake data modelling and its impact on the network

Across the three workstreams, we will engage with property owners, local councils, property developers, businesses, academics and consumer groups to work out how specific local areas can best remove carbon from heating.

As part of the research, we’ll analyse energy efficiency trends and carry out heat zoning assessments by combining information about the properties, homes and socio-economics of each area. This will enable our strategists to create custom forecasts to identify the most efficient pathway to zero carbon heating, and even produce bespoke plans for specific local areas. The study will cover various consumer segments along with a wider set including both domestic and non-domestic, on and off-gas grid, new and existing properties.

The project will consider a broad range of low carbon heating alternatives, including switching from gas boilers to electric heat pumps, installing cavity wall insulation, switching to another type of heating supply, or combinations of all. For the first time, Heat Street will create a model for forecasting uptake of the different technologies that can be followed by other parts of the UK.

Heat zoning assessments will be based on the independent Energy Systems Catapult recommendations, in which specific areas are ‘zoned’ depending on their best type of Net Zero pathway. For example, areas with a high number of flats are less suitable for heat pumps but will benefit from heat networks, or rural villages that are not connected to the gas network may be more likely to switch to heat pumps. Efforts to decarbonise heating could then be focused where the benefits can be most efficiently unlocked for customers.

This research will help also help to deepen our knowledge and create an evidence base to prepare a robust investment plan to facilitate the uptake of electric heat for the next five-year regulatory price control period commencing in 2023 (ED2).

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

This is a forward-thinking research project, and will create a first-of-its kind picture of low carbon heating. This will be especially valuable given the uncertainty of uptake of energy efficiency measures and low carbon heating in the future while policy continues to develop.

This will be the first time in Great Britain that a project has looked at the future impact of heating decarbonisation on DNOs. We’ll build extensive knowledge and evidence about the future of heating decarbonisation, which we can then use as a base to build future innovation and maximise the carbon and cost saving benefits for our customers.

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