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Wales & West Utilities and UK Power Networks launch green home heat trial

Posted on: 09/02/2021

Low carbon hybrid heating systems which could play a big part in helping meet the UK’s Net Zero target will be trialed in seven UK homes for the first time in Wales, London and the South and East of England, by gas network Wales & West Utilities and electricity network operator UK Power Networks.

The ‘HyCompact’ project will fit the easy to install single-unit hybrid system in customers’ homes to supply their heating through both electricity and natural gas.

The project aims to demonstrate how low carbon heating systems that combine gas and electricity can be easily ‘retrofitted’ and reduce carbon emissions from millions of homes and businesses with traditional gas boilers. According to a 2019 report by the government’s Committee on Climate Change, as many as 29m homes require such an upgrade if the UK is to meet its Net Zero target by 2050.

The new hybrid units contain a gas boiler and an electric air source heat pump alongside smart control software. The system, fitted directly into customers’ homes and hung on the wall in place of the existing conventional gas boiler, can flexibly switch between using renewable electricity, when it’s available, and green gas at other times – enabling the full decarbonisation of heat with switching driven by cost and carbon.

The project builds on the success of Wales & West Utilities’ Freedom Project, which trialled the use of hybrid heating systems with a standalone gas boiler and an external air-source heat pump. Taking on board customer feedback from that trial, HyCompact is using the latest advances in hybrid heating technology to test a next generation product.

The project is due to run through winter and spring 2020-21.

We’re delighted to launch this pioneering project, which is a real test in homes of new smart hybrid heating systems. HyCompact builds on the success of the Freedom Project, and considers views from energy customers, who told us they wanted the units to be smaller and more convenient.

Decarbonising heat is one of the biggest challenges we face in the energy sector. As the independent Pathways report showed, repurposing our existing safe and reliable gas network to transport green gases like biomethane and hydrogen helps us get to Net Zero quicker, saving £13bn a year compared to electrification alone. Smart hybrid systems like HyCompact can make that green gas go further, faster. 

This trial will help us further understand the impact on gas and electricity networks of smart hybrid systems and gather more customer views on what living with a smart hybrid heating system is like.

Chris Clarke, Wales & West Utilities’ Energy Strategy Director

We are excited to partner with Wales & West Utilities on this cross vector project. The challenge of achieving Net Zero is only going to be met through true whole system trials and collaborations. Our goal is to enable the transition to Net Zero smoothly and at the lowest cost to our energy customers. This project will supply electricity networks with learning of the network impact and the best possible customer proposition for a hybrid transition.

 Ian Cameron, Head of Customer Services and Innovation at UK Power Networks

HyCompact is part of the Energy Networks Association Gas Goes Green programme – which brings together engineering expertise from the UK’s gas networks, and sets out a blueprint that will help deliver net zero in the most cost effective and least disruptive way.

We all need to be able to access a choice of green appliances, including hybrid heating systems, to tackle the challenge of reducing carbon emissions from our homes. A long-term and flexible whole system vision for energy networks is key to maximising those appliances’ full potential and delivering a sustainable future. HyCompact is a ground-breaking example of that vision in action, demonstrating how Britain’s energy networks are using world-leading innovation projects to help develop new green technologies, solutions and industries.

David Smith, Chief Executive of Energy Networks Association