Heating homes with wind energy could deliver benefits of £26m per year to electricity consumers

The 4D Heat project publishes its findings today, identifying that up to 540GWh of energy generated by wind could be absorbed by domestic heating across off-gas grid Scotland in 2030, saving £24m per year in wind constraint payments and delivering a further £2m per year in environmental and social benefits.

Stakeholders are invited to attend a webinar to learn about the project findings, which will be held at 10am on 28th October. To register, click here.

The ‘4D Heat’ project, which was funded by Ofgem’s Network Innovation Allowance (NIA) and led by Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) and National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO), set out to identify whether the flexible demand from electric heat could be matched to occasions when wind farms are generating more wind energy than can be carried across the transmission network. The research, modelling and analysis were carried out by Delta-EE, Everoze and PassivSystems.

This project is called 4D Heat, reflecting the potential for domestic heat to address all four challenges of decarbonisation, decentralisation, digitisation and democratisation inherent in the shift to a net zero future. While many homes already use electric heating, advances in digital technologies and an increase in low-carbon generation are creating a smarter, flexible energy system. 4D Heat sought to identify efficient and cost-effective opportunities in this energy system transition.

4D Heat analysed an off-gas grid area in Skye and extrapolated findings to off-gas grid Scotland, to explore the ability of flexible demand from heat to absorb wind power that would otherwise have been curtailed due to transmission constraints. Constraint management is required where the electricity transmission system is unable to transmit power to the location of demand, due to congestion at one or more parts of the transmission network and currently costs around £500m per year. Modelled using a whole system view, the goal for 4D Heat was to make better use of clean power without increasing costs for the ESO, DSO or end consumer.

4D Heat has provided clear recommendations on the roles for SSEN and ESO to support the decarbonisation of heat:

  1. Support the evidence base for smart domestic controls, which will be an essential tool to support low carbon heat;
  2. Continue DSO reform by improving accessibility to data to give flexibility providers long-term visibility of the location of future network needs;
  3. Adopt a ‘market enabling’ role for innovation, for example by promoting innovation in the energy supply market (eg dynamic time of use tariffs) and encouraging the wind industry to explore new market mechanisms to include residential demand side flexibility.

The analysis found that 17% of curtailed wind could be used by these electric heating systems in 2020 and 9% in 2030 (when the forecast 2030 wind curtailment is around three times the total off-gas grid electric heating load), with significant corresponding CO2 savings. Furthermore, by 2030 some households could be saving 18% on their annual energy bill.

Kate Jones, Project Manager on Heat 4D for SSEN said:

“This is a timely report given the increasing interest in decarbonised heat from national and devolved governments. The 4D Heat project shows that the potential role for electrified heat in helping to balance the grid and to save money for network operators and their customers, is significant. Findings from this report will help inform how we work with diverse stakeholders across the energy market in the transition to decarbonised heat, including the ESO, flexibility providers and vulnerable customers who are currently more likely to be dependent upon electric heating.

“This report also helps identify a number of challenges that will benefit from further work, to realise the full benefits of this approach.

“We look forward to adopting this timely report’s recommendations and using them to support an efficient and equitable transition to low carbon heat, putting our customers at the heart of the process.”

Cian McLeavey-Reville, innovation strategy manager at ESO, said:

“If National Grid ESO is to achieve our ambition of operating a zero-carbon electricity system by 2025, it is essential that we take a whole system approach to solving the challenges that this transition presents. 4D Heat is a prime example of this way of thinking – we are tackling the huge challenge of how to decarbonise heat, while also addressing the significant issue of wind curtailment, and considering constraints at both transmission and distribution level. Crucially, we are also driving down consumers’ heating bills, in a consumer segment that is more likely to be vulnerable.

“We are proud of the work undertaken by this consortium, and look forward to adopting the recommendations, as we keep striving to find a better way to deliver the energy system transition.”

Matthew Myers, Senior Analyst at Delta-EE, leading the research with Everoze and PassivSystems, said:

“The 4D Heat project has produced a range of really interesting findings and insights. The project demonstrates how domestic customers can play a significant role in the energy transition, with their heating systems automatically adjusting to help avoid wind generation having to be paid to switch off.”