Britain’s biggest distributed network operator is pumping over £15m into unlocking the flexibility offered by low carbon residential home heat. Ground- or air-sourced pumps are front and centre of WPD’s thoughts.
Western Power Distribution bills its Equinox venture, running at least initially from March 2022 to January 2026, as the first of a kind in innovation. “Equinox” is an amalgam of “Equitable Novel Flexibility Exchange”.
The electrification and decarbonisation of heat, and their effect when deployed at scale on networks, form Equinox’s core. Answers to key questions will be sought, on matters such as how network operators can participate most cost-efficiently in decarbonising heat, while at the same time managing increased network demand and network reliability.
Pumping £15.38m into Equinox, the DNO is partnering with SP Energy Networks, Octopus Energy, and the West Midlands Combined Authority and the Welsh Government. The alliance is part-funded by Ofgem’s Network Innovation Competition.
Equinox will look to develop commercial arrangements to support technologies able to unlock flexibility and load-shifting in low carbon heating of homes, like heat pumps. The interests of non-residential customers will be balanced.
Project partners Passiv Systems, SERO Homes, Guidehouse are also lined up. The project team is also hunting for more supplier support to test the commercial trials.
Avoiding expensive network reinforcement, fundable out of RIIO-2 programmes, is foremost among benefits through the deferral or due to the predicted dramatic uptake of
Forecasts of the UK’s uptake of heat pumps were thrown into confusion in October, as premier Johnson’s Heat and Building Strategy promised £5,000 grants per home for installations, but imposed a cap of 30,000 installations for each of only three years. Green campaigners and installation businesses criticised politicians’ short-termism and NIMTO – ( ‘not in my term of office’) – neglect.
Innovation engineer at the DNO Stuart Fowler commented: “WPD believes that everyone should be able to access the benefits that can be offered through heat flexibility.
“In our Equinox project, we want to make this happen by developing and trialling the commercial arrangements that are needed for this to become a reality.
“Through unlocking the flexibility of heat pumps, we hope that the project will allow DNOs to effectively plan investment and reduce barriers for all residential customers to provide flexibility.”