£5.2million heat innovation trial launches for South Wales

The Freedom project, which is being trialed in Bridgend, is a collaborative energy project designed to deliver a breakthrough for the future of domestic heating systems.

Funded through Ofgem’s Network Innovation Allowance, Freedom (Flexible Residential Energy Efficiency Demand Optimisation and Management) is designed to understand the potential role of installing and using hybrid gas-electric heating systems.

It has recently delivered its interim report with trials taking place in 75 homes.

Uniquely, the project brings Western Power Distribution (WPD)  together with gas network operator Wales & West Utilities with the aim to provide robust, field-tested data which can make a meaningful contribution to a long-term whole-systems approach to network investment planning.

Other collaborators include PassivSystems, Delta-ee, Imperial College and City University.

The project has seen the installation of hybrid heating systems across a mix of private and social housing as it seeks to explore the lowest cost route to decarbonise heat using the flexibility to remotely switch between renewable gas and electricity.

Faithful Chanda, who is managing the project said: “Designing heating systems which combine gas boilers with air source heat pumps, while employing smart switching between the gas and electric load, enables a choice of fuels to match consumer demand for heat.

“This highly flexible approach enables the heating system to take advantage of time-of-use price differences between the two fuels – the so-called fuel arbitrage.

“Innovation has always been a key part of WPD’s development strategy and our ability to take an innovative approach to day-to-day working and the problems that we face has made us a leader in our industry,” added Faithful.

Interim results from the project show smart controlled hybrid heating between an air source heat pump and a boiler running on natural gas offers lower cost and lower carbon domestic heat when compared to electrified heat through air source heat pumps alone.

When there is insufficient renewable electricity generation, when it is very cold or when there are capacity constraints on the electricity network, the heat load can shift across to the gas network and visa-versa to provide uncompromised heat.

Converting 10,000 homes to hybrid heating could save between ten and 20,000 tons of carbon each year and has the potential to help meet the EU’s environmental targets by achieving a 20% cut in greenhouse emissions.

The project is currently focusing on the optimised controlling, monitoring and consumer feedback throughout the 2018 heating season.