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Heat pump trial would test impact on power network

UK: The energy regulator, Ofgem, has been challenged by a leading energy trade body to examine the real-world consequence of shifting homes from gas onto heat pumps.

The CEO of Energy and Utilities Alliance (EUA), Mike Foster, has written to the regulator Jonathan Brearley, calling for a village-sized trial of decarbonising homes using heat pumps.

Foster says that, while the gas distribution networks are working on a hydrogen village to assess how a transition from natural gas to 100% hydrogen would work, no such exercise is being conducted for alternative technologies, such as heat pumps.

“The BEIS funded Low Carbon heat trial is fundamentally a different proposition and cannot be compared to the Hydrogen Village trials,” Foster says. “Under the BEIS scheme, households have self-selected to receive heat pumps from wide geographical areas, meaning that any impact upon the electricity network is diluted and will not reflect the real world experience that mass adoption of heat pumps brings. A heat pump trial, in a dedicated location, would simulate the real world challenges that power networks will face.”

A similar trial for heat pumps would help inform the regulator and government of the consequences for the consumer, he maintains.

“Electricity networks will need massive upgrades to the wires, the substations and even the pylons. Homes need assessing for their suitability for a heat pump. That means looking at the fabric of the building itself, its outside space, its internal pipework or even where to put a hot water tank. A Heat Pump Village trial does just this.”

“Ofgem should have the consumer at the very heart of its thinking. Reinforcement of the power network will come at a massive cost; the consumer will foot the bill so they have a right to know what this is likely to be. They should also be told what is required from them in their homes.”

“Alongside Hydrogen Village trials, a Heat Pump Village trial will provide the much-needed evidence for policymakers as they tackle the challenge of decarbonising UK homes. The cost of a trial will be minuscule compared to getting this wrong. I urge Ofgem to step up to the plate and take a lead.”

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