The heat is on: The Smart Systems and Heat Programme

The heat is on: The Smart Systems and Heat Programme All picture copyright of the ETI

24 May 2016

Grant Bourhill, director, smart systems and heat, Energy Systems Catapult

Channel: Innovation, technology & operations, Research and Development

Decarbonisation targets demand a 50-fold ramp up in the conversion of domestic properties to low carbon heating. The Smart Systems and Heat programme will set out how this can be achieved.

Household space and water heating in the UK contributes around 100 million tonnes of CO2 annually to the atmosphere, equating to 20% of national carbon emissions. The decarbonisation of heat is therefore vital to enable the UK to achieve its overall emissions reduction target of 80% on 1990 levels by 2050. Indeed, studies show it is more cost-effective to virtually eliminate emissions from buildings than initiate deeper cuts in transport and industry.

In essence, the decarbonisation of buildings will require the replacement of gas boilers with a combination of low-carbon heating, such as heat networks, heat pumps and low carbon gases, alongside improved insulation and home energy management systems. In addition to the building of new sustainable homes, around 26 million existing homes will require retro-fitting. If this were to be accomplished between 2025 and 2050, it would require a conversion rate of 20,000 homes each week. This is 50 times greater than the existing domestic conversion rate to low carbon heating.

In response to these challenges, the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) commissioned a major Smart Systems and Heat (SSH) programme in 2012. In 2015, the ETI’s SSH team transferred into the new Energy Systems Catapult (ESC) with the first phase of the programme (research, design, development and testing) delivered by the ESC as a supplier to the ETI. The aim is that phase two – the demonstration of phase one design – will be delivered independently of the ETI from 2017.

The ambition of the SSH programme is to create future-proof and economic local heating solutions for the UK, connecting together an understanding of consumer needs and behaviour with the development and integration of new technologies and business models.

The associated insights will help develop the knowledge base across industry and the public sector, providing information and an evidence base for policymakers, and building industry and investor confidence to deploy solutions at the required rate.

The programme has two distinct phases:

• Development of tools, products and business models;
• Validation and demonstration of the solutions at a scale required to support a 50 times increase in deployment rates.


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The Energy Technology Institute (ETI) says consumers could be ready to move to low-carbon heat, but only if industry rethinks the consumer proposition.

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The capital costs of UK heat networks could be reduced by 30-40%, according to a report from the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI).

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Ian Manders - UK energy policy advisor, Danish Embassy London, makes the case for appropriate consideration of social housing in UK government funding of efficient heat networks.