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Utility collaboration delivers tomorrow's heating today

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A unique collaboration between electricity and gas network operators Western Power Distribution (WPD) and Wales & West Utilities has highlighted the viability of hybrid heating as a way of saving domestic customers money and helping the UK reach its carbon reduction targets.

The results of the Freedom Project were launched at a reception at the Houses of Parliament yesterday to an audience of MPs, civil servants and industry experts.

Funded through Ofgem’s Network Innovation Allowance, Freedom was designed to understand the potential role of installing and using hybrid gas-electric systems. It was delivered by PassivSystems, supported by Imperial College, Delta-ee and City University.

Heating systems that combined gas boilers with air source heating pumps and featured smart switching between the gas and electric networks were installed in 75 homes in Bridgend. The homes were a mix of private and social housing.

WPD’s Network Strategy and Innovation Manager Nigel Turvey said: “Although plans for decarbonising transport are taking shape the pathway for decarbonising heat is less certain.

“WPD is proud to be at the forefront of addressing some of the key unanswered questions of the future energy system. Together with Wales & West Utilities we have a history of delivering for our customers and we want to ensure that continues.

“Using the latest technologies such as hybrid heating will enable us to deliver a low carbon future at a lower cost to customers.”

Wales & West Utilities Chief Executive Graham Edwards said: “Freedom is a breakthrough opportunity to decarbonise home heating in a way that has customers and their needs at its heart.

“It both maximises the use of existing utility assets while not disrupting customers’ homes. The really exciting thing is that the smart controls tested and developed as part of this project are ready to go, meaning that if we can increase the development and use of green gas and renewable power, we can make hybrids happen – increasing the pace of decarbonisation.”

Findings from the project include:

  • Smart hybrid systems can deliver a transition to low carbon heat, which offer a significant financial saving compared to a full electrification scenario
  • As the gas demand on the system is reduced by hybridisation, so the opportunity for green gas to further enhance carbon outcomes increases
  • Homes that use LPG can make significant savings on winter fuel bills without any requirement to improve the thermal efficiency of the building or replace any radiators.

PassivSystems’ Chief Executive and Founder Colin Calder said: “Hybrid systems provide the lowest cost route to decarbonising Britain’s homes. They also provide a growth opportunity for UK businesses.”

Final Report

Project Summary