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Decarbonised Heating and Cooling: Don’t forget the customer

Image from Decarb Heat

Slowly, but very surely, the EU is getting us used to the idea of a fully decarbonised heating and cooling sector across Europe. It’s a bold and necessary objective which has profound implications for companies right across the energy sector. 

But is the European Commission going about it the right way?  

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Integrating gas and electricity vectors in future energy scenarios with the 2050 Energy Pathfinder Model

Delta-ee recently supported Wales & West Utilities’ strategic work looking into the future role of gas in the UK as part of an integrated cross-vector energy system. We helped Wales &West Utilities develop a new generation of their 2050 Energy Pathfinder Model that assesses the impact of different future energy mixes on the balance of electricity and gas supply and demand for any size population in the UK. The main objectives of the rebuild were to critically review the methodology and assumptions, streamline the model methodology, and improve the model’s user interface.

The model simulates hourly supply and demand profiles for gas and electricity across a defined region for a sample year. Together with existing sources and demands, new sources such as tidal barrage, and demands such as EVs are included, alongside fuel switching between the electricity and gas vectors (for example, using hybrid heat pumps). This enables a range of storage, demand response and new technology innovations to be simulated. The model outputs the following results:

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2018-2019: The pivotal years for New Energy

Delta-ee may have been early to the conversation. We started talking 10-15 years ago about decentralised energy, customers not meter points; who has needs, wants and preferences, services beyond commodity. These dynamics have now firmly moved from being on the periphery of the debate to front and centre. Most companies now recognise the direction in which the market is heading, and it seems like we are approaching the cusp of change.

Developing the right strategy and tactics is however challenging – exciting, but challenging.

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Will Energy-as-a-Service kill the kilowatt-hour?

Last Thursday I attended the UK’s 2018 Heat and Decentralised Energy Conference. There were several exciting sessions on policy, technology, infrastructure and customers – reflecting a market that is starting to see a lot of change and disruption. Tim Rotheray, Director of the Association for Decentralised Energy, gave what I thought was an especially interesting talk on why he believes the time for Energy-as-a-Service (EaaS) has finally come.

Whether Energy-as-a-Service will lead to the death of the kilowatt-hour, as Tim suggested, has been a topic of debate within Delta-ee. We agree that customer culture is certainly changing. The trend from product and commodity towards services and outcomes is emerging across multiple industries. Customers will pay for services’ outcomes (such as comfort or mobility) rather than products and commodities (such as fuel). Just look at car leasing, music streaming and even clothing rental.

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Hydrogen and hybrid heat pumps: the key pieces in the decarbonisation puzzle?

There is a strong potential future for hydrogen as a means to decarbonise heat, according to the reports published by the UK’s Committee on Climate Change (CCC) on 22nd November. Hydrogen is painted as one of the three key solutions (alongside electrification and improved energy efficiency) which will help the UK both decarbonise heat and create more energy system flexibility. This supports Delta-ee’s view that the best route to decarbonisation of heating is likely to be a ‘balanced transition’ across a mix of technologies and fuels.

As our Gas Heating Service highlighted recently, the UK is already one the most active countries in Europe regarding the development of hydrogen for heating: see projects including H21, Hy4Heat, HyNet, HyDeploy and H100. This latest report by the CCC only strengthens the argument that hydrogen could play a key role in heat, as well as in other sectors like transport and industrial processes.

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Auto-switchers - more than a passing fad?

It’s already been 18 months since we wrote about the emergence of what we believed could be an important new trend: the growth of auto-switching services. Since then, we have watched as a series of new players has begun playing this new game. Customers continue to sign up – perhaps as many as 200,000 across Europe – and we’ve spotted no fewer than twenty auto-switchers across the world, several of whom are increasingly well funded. We have revisited this intriguing trend in some recent research, increasingly convinced that incumbents need to start taking the threat seriously.

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, auto-switchers are next-generation price comparison sites, reimagining the one-off, manual tariff switching services that companies like GoCompare, Moneysupermarket and Selectra offer residential energy users. Typically, you register your home and criteria online and the auto-switcher will run an algorithm, or even use AI, to find the best deal on the market to suit your preferences (price savings, service, green) then switch you whenever it flags up that savings can be had. Timings & authorisation vary, but the idea is that you only ever personally need to take action once at the start (unless to update preferences) then forever live in complete security that the hassle of switching is removed from your To Do list forever. Some services operate membership fees (Flipper) and others rely on commission (comparison sites, Labrador) or optional hardware (June), but all share the goal of permanently soothing the perennial consumer headache that is finding the best supplier.

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European Utility Week confirms Electric Vehicles and Demand Side Response as important parts of the energy mix

Given that European Utility Week has been held yearly for the last 20 years, it’s a testament to the innovation and ideas coming out of the energy industry, showcasing new technologies and sharing ideas and insights.

On the Delta-ee team visit to EUW in Vienna, the key themes coming out of the event were clear: Electric Vehicles – especially their interaction with the electricity system – and Demand Side Response.

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Reasons to keep the faith in hybrids

The introduction of hybrid heat pumps (hybrids) across Europe has progressed a lot more slowly than we thought it would when we first looked at them around 2012.

Essentially, the technology has not received the anticipated push from equipment manufacturers – remaining a portfolio product for most. And, despite generating very good carbon savings against alternatives, they rarely offer customers enough energy bill savings to justify their higher upfront cost (or encourage installers to push them).

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Key takeaways from the Energy Storage Global Conference

Last week I attended the Energy Storage Global Conference (ESGC18) in Brussels, organised by the European Association for the Storage of Energy (EASE). It was a very well organised and enjoyable event but as always, content is king, and the conference certainly delivered on this front too.

There were lots of interesting presentations over three days, and Delta-ee Director Andy Bradley had the opportunity to present headlines from our EMMES 2.0 report published in June. See here for details of the EMMES 2.0 report and contact [email protected] if you would like a copy of the presentation.

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Reflections on Chillventa 2018

The Internet of Things (IoT) and the refrigerant of the future were top of the agenda on our recent visit to Chillventa 2018 in Nuremberg.

#1: The “Internet of Things” (IoT) was a buzz phrase this year on HVAC-R company stands – was there substance behind the slogan?

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