How can the UK fall back in love with electric heating?

By Zain Habib, Innovation Programme Delivery Manager at UK Power Networks

Achieving the ‘Net Zero’ target will be a steep challenge for us all. However, when we look at the accelerated pace of technological advancements and innovation over the last decade, I believe it is more achievable than some imagine.

To get to a Net Zero economy we need to continue decarbonising the energy system and at the same time decarbonise mobility and heat. The challenge for companies like ours, is getting there at the lowest possible cost and without any customers, especially our most vulnerable, being left behind. The government has already rolled out several initiatives in recent years indicating that decarbonisation of heat remains a priority. However, we cannot wait to act until the roadmap is fully defined, as such we must continue to focus on the ‘least regret’ actions that can deliver the highest impact in the short-term to facilitate this transition to low carbon heat.

Between 2011 and 2018, UK Power Networks alone connected over 6GW of renewable energy resources, about a third of its peak demand, as well as over 217MW of storage to our network (with 2.6GW of accepted offers for connecting storage down the line). In the same period, we released and revised our electric vehicle (EV) strategy. This is now embedded in our business and we have a roadmap for how we’re going to facilitate the uptake of 3.6m electric vehicles projected to be on our networks by 2030. Our work on getting more low carbon energy onto the system and decarbonising transport led to us winning the Edison International Award for the world’s leading utility company in 2019, and we are now applying the approach we developed for decarbonising the electricity system and transport to heat.

That is why this year we launched the industry’s first standalone heat readiness strategy, building on our experience of transport electrification. We know we don’t have all the answers, so we’ve developed our strategy as an open consultation that will remain live for until the next release. Through our open consultation, in this fast-changing environment, we want to learn and collaborate with experts in their fields and put our strategy into action. We believe it’s vital for networks to be agile and ready to review their strategy in response to policy and market signals.

Our current near-term heat strategy is to refine our forecasts so that we have the best possible view of the future, to embed ourselves in the wider heat decarbonisation discussion so we can engage and learn, and to undertake least regret actions to prepare our network for any potential scenario that manifests.

However, we cannot be successful without the valuable inputs of our stakeholders. We are developing the enablers that will help us understand, mitigate and prepare for the potential impact of electric heating. Ultimately, by deepening our knowledge and our evidence base, we will prepare a robust plan to facilitate the uptake of clean heating supplied through the electricity network.

You can download our Heat Strategy here, and we welcome your feedback.

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