Heat pump 'flexibility' trial launched


26 October 2022

Heat pump owners in the Midlands, South West and South Wales will be able to take part in a trial this winter, where they can save around £100 on their bills for turning their heat pumps off for certain two-hour periods.

The EQUINOX trial is being led by National Grid’s electricity distribution business, formerly Western Power Distribution. The trial will help customers save money on bills while National Grid can test to what extent changing consumer consumption can help to increase grid flexibility. 

Recruitment for the trial has already begun with the aim of starting the trial in December. EQUINOX partners, Octopus Energy and Sero, are working to recruit interested customers. 

Stuart Fowler, Innovation Engineer at National Grid and EQUINOX Project Manager, said: “EQUINOX is about putting customers at the heart of a more flexible energy system and seeks to utilise the supplier, customer relationship to test consumer appetite for demand side services. These services will be vital for a more flexible grid and security of supply. We are really excited about the learning potential from EQUINOX and glad to have such a great consortia.”

The EQUINOX trial will run every winter from 2022 to 2025 and will test if heat pump owners are willing to reduce the temperature of their homes for short periods of time for modest financial incentives to help balance energy demand. Duration and scale of temperature reductions should mean minimal disruption to daily habits and comfort in the home. 

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Cheryl Hiles, Director of Energy Capital, part of the West Midlands Combined Authority, added: “The West Midlands needs our energy system to operate in a smarter way, to enable our citizens and businesses to benefit from the energy transition– we need to make our energy system work better for us, rather than just generating more energy to meet increasing demand. Energy consumers are key to this and National Grid are important partners in the region’s efforts to shape the energy system. This project will help us to understand and influence behaviours to provide a more flexible and effective energy system, and we look forward to seeing how the outcomes of the EQUINOX innovation project can be used to shape future consumer propositions.”

The trial will seek to understand to what extent future grid upgrades can be minimised or deferred, helping participants to reduce their future bills as well as their current ones. Furthermore, if the trial is successful, EQUINOX can be rolled out further afield, allowing customers outside the trial region to also benefit from bill savings.

James Williams, CEO at Sero, said: “Sero was founded on the principle that connected net zero measures like heat pumps will help to enable cost saving and energy independence both to residents and the broader electricity grid.
“This is why we're thrilled to be part of the EQUINOX project, the first coordinated demand side response application of our proven technology, demonstrating that this technology combined with positive community engagement can help to balance the grid in times of pressure, supporting net zero targets without sacrificing resident comfort."

Alex Schoch, Head of Flexibility at Octopus Energy Group - whose customers will take part in the trial - said: “Heat pumps are the future of heating. In an increasingly green, cheap and electric grid they also pose an amazing solution to grid flexibility and resilience in the face of blackouts. The EQUINOX trial is seeking to prove how important these magical devices will be to the energy system of the future, while still keeping customers cosy and warm in their homes. We’re excited to get going.” 

Octopus customers who would like to get involved can register their interest in the link here.