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Flexible Residential Energy Efficiency Demand Optimisation and Management

Funding mechanismNetwork Innovation Allowance (NIA)
DurationOctober 2016 - January 2019
Project expenditure5.2 million
Research areaLow Carbon Technologies
  • South Wales

November 2019

Deploying hybrid heat pumps would increase near-term reductions in emissions from buildings and provide greater confidence that very high levels of savings can be achieved by 2050. Domestic heat can be substantially decarbonised by deploying hybrid heat pumps.

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November 2019

Deploying hybrid heat pumps would increase near-term reductions in emissions from buildings and provide greater confidence that very high levels of savings c…


The research objectives of this project are to better understand if hybrid heating systems are technically capable, affordable and attractive to customers as a way of heating homes. This project aims to investigate the feasibility of the use of heat pumps on both WPD’s & WWU’s network in order to:

  1. Demonstrate the ability of the hybrid heating system to switch between gas and electric load to provide fuel arbitrage and highly flexible demand response services; 
  2. Demonstrate the consumer, network, carbon and energy system benefits of deployment of hybrid heating systems with an aggregated demand response control system; and 
  3. Gain insights into the means of balancing the interests of the consumer, supplier, distribution and transmission network when seeking to derive value from the demand flexibility.



The Climate Change Act passed in 2008 committed the UK to reducing emissions by at least 80% in 2050 from 1990 levels. Meeting this target would likely require heat related emissions of CO2 from buildings to be near zero by 2050, both targets pose an enormous economic and environmental challenge to energy providers. In the recent past, the expectation from the government and others has been that gas networks would be switched off within the next 20-30 years, to be replaced by electrified heat. However, it is becoming clear that the electrification of heat brings with it many challenges – both technical and economic. It is imperative that the energy sector support research and invest in energy solutions that are affordable, reliable and safe for our customers.

In the UK, about 70% of all energy consumed is in the home, of which space heating and hot water production account for the bulk of the energy use. With the majority of the homes in the UK being heated by combustion of fossil fuels, a heat generating system that could improve domestic energy efficiency significantly has the potential to deliver dramatic reductions in primary energy consumption and CO2 emissions. 

Electricity is the most expensive fuel available in the UK, an energy savings trust report in 2013 found that rising costs for electricity hit poorer households with electric heating the hardest. Gas boilers typically emit 2-4 tons of carbon per year, depending on boiler and house type. Converting 10,000 homes to hybrid heating could save between 10,000 and 20,000 tonnes of carbon per year. The hybrid heating system has the potential to help meet the EU’s ambitious environmental targets of achieving a 20% cut in greenhouse gas emissions compared with 1990 levels and a 20% reduction in energy consumption by 2020. The technology, which combines domestic gas boiler and air-source heat pump heating, has the capability to use either fuel or both and can be used as fully flexible loads capable of providing significant energy system value. 


PassivSystems Limited and its partners have put together a proposal to deliver a technically and commercially successful innovation project to realise the benefits of using the hybrid heating system (heat pump and gas boiler) for our networks and our customers. The success of the work will depend largely on the location, housing types and type of heat pump. The trial will be conducted in domestic housing units in the Bridgend area to demonstrate potential solutions to the findings of earlier research projects such as Bridgend Future Modelling. A variety of liaison meetings between PassivSystems and the Local Authority as well as other interested organisations, to gain the support and ensure the deployment satisfies the given criteria, has been undertaken. 

The methodology for the delivery of this Project will follow the process below: 

  1. Selection of the area for the trial (customer engagement plan) 
  2. Selection of the type and size of the heat pump 
  3. Modelling 
  4. Mobilisation (procurement of equipment and services) 
  5. Trials or field test, including measurements (install equipment) 
  6. Connection agreements and policy 
  7. Analysis and close down (Analyse results, evaluate) 

  • The proposed project runs for 27 months and has been broken down into two phases, which are defined in 14 work packages. The research objective is to better understand how hybrid heating systems can be: 

    1. Affordable through using advanced algorithms to unlock value from energy markets; 
    2. Trustworthy by building consumer trust in new technology whilst providing the same level of comfort in people’s homes; and 
    3. Developing appropriate user interfaces and information systems to help drive adoption. 

    All design and foundation development activities conclude in the first six months. Pilot installations are initially undertaken in four households before installations are rolled out to the rest of the trial properties, followed by a period of monitoring and experimentation phase which seeks to learn and then iteratively refine the heating and load management processes and the consumer interface and information provision over a full year. 

    The full size and scale of the potential solution will only become apparent when trials are conducted. The FREEDOM project does not involve us offering or modelling the provision flexibility services to the System Operator or wider market by WPD or WWU. 

  • The research will document the outputs of the pilot installations, the system interfaces and customer feedback that will enable us to continue to the next steps towards a commercial solution. The project will: 

    1. Present a comprehensive review of the technology; 
    2. Produce a case study of how the technology contributes to the reduction of carbon emissions and compares with previous energy bills for domestic consumers through increased heating system efficiencies and a reduced unit cost; 
    3. Identify if the solution can bring benefits to WPD’s & WWU’s networks; 
    4. Deploy trials subscribed to by up to 75 participants; 
    5. Produce a proven architecture for the hybrid heating system; and
    6. Develop a business process (polices, standard techniques etc.) for the use of hybrid heating system. 
  • The project will deliver a hybrid heating system that is able to support the electricity and gas network in the discovery of sustainable alternatives to help deliver the UK’s energy requirements. The project will consider whether the technology can defer network investments, remove network constraints and provide a fully flexible domestic heating load management service. The control enhancements will move well beyond current hybrid technology that makes a simple switching decision based on fixed tariff information and will provide accurate load forecasts by fuel type by quarter hour to the energy supplier. Consumers will for the first time be able to see a forecast of spend on heating for the coming period, based on their individual home, occupancy patterns, weather forecast and comfort settings. Other network operators within both the gas and electricity sector will also be able to gain a comprehensive understanding of hybrid heat systems after reviewing this project’s reports and results. 

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