20 January 2022
A project to allow customers to play a part in a flexible energy future using heat pumps in their own homes has been launched by Western Power Distribution, the distribution network operator (DNO) for the Midlands, South West and South Wales.
The Equinox project (Equitable Novel Flexibility Exchange) is the first to aim to unlock flexibility from residential low carbon heating technology, such as heat pumps, and to ensure that all customers are able to benefit, including those who are fuel poor or vulnerable.
Equinox will look to develop commercial arrangements to support technologies that unlock flexibility from residential low carbon heating, like heat pumps, while meeting the needs of all consumers. The £15.38m project is partly funded by Ofgem’s Network Innovation Competition (NIC) and is the first NIC-funded project dedicated to addressing the challenges DNOs face from the electrification of heat.
WPD will work with project partners Passiv Systems, SP Energy Networks, Octopus Energy, SERO Homes, West Midlands Combined Authority, Guidehouse and the Welsh Government to develop the novel commercial arrangements and supporting technologies needed to unlock flexibility from residential low carbon heating. The project team is also looking to secure additional supplier support to test the commercial trials.
WPD predicts that the project will answer key questions on how electricity network operators can participate proactively in the decarbonisation of heat in the most cost-efficient way for customers, managing increased network demand while maintaining network reliability. It is hoped that it will create a viable solution for DNOs to unlock the flexibility from residential low carbon heat at scale in a way that is reliable, cost-effective and equitable for customers. The project aims to deliver substantial network benefits through the deferral or avoidance of network reinforcement due to the predicted dramatic uptake of heat pumps in the upcoming RIIO-ED2 price control period and beyond. WPD is preparing its network for an additional 600,000 heat pump connections by 2028.
Stuart Fowler, WPD innovation engineer, said: “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.”
Equinox is currently planned to run from March 2022 to January 2026.