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European district heat networks – booming asset prices but a flat market. What’s going on?

https://sustainablecities.vattenfall.com/en/berlin

Heat networks have been around a very long time – group heating systems date back to the 14th century in France. However, while the sector boomed from the 1930s and again from the 1970s, Europe has seen only very modest expansion in recent years. This is not a growth market. And yet the underlying assets, the heat generation and distribution systems, continue to be highly sought after by investors.  We know this because we have helped clients seek them out.   

Can this apparent contradiction tell us something about the future of this sector? Is it fated to flat-line and fade, or can it boom again and be a core part of the transition to the new energy world?  Understanding the future of heating markets is a core part of Delta-ee’s research so this is an important question for us.

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What do installers think of digital sales platforms for heating systems and home services?

That’s the question Delta-ee’s upcoming installer research is aiming to answer. The heating system installation market in the UK is currently dominated by small independent local tradespeople. These businesses do both technical work and sales. However, a growing number of digital platforms are emerging where sales are facilitated by a third party. These digital platforms certainly have the potential to significantly disrupt existing sales channels, but getting installers on board will be crucial to their success.

We’ve seen lots of activity in the market for booking home services online since British Gas launched its Local Heroes platform in mid-2017. Heatable came on the scene shortly thereafter, marketing itself to installers as “your digital salesman”. Smart thermostat manufacturer Tado has since begun offering boiler repair services through its partnership with HomeServe, and both John Lewis Home Solutions and Amazon Home Services have now launched in the UK. Hoppy, born out of EDF Energy’s innovation accelerator, recently unveiled its complete home management site with a number of services to help users simplify running their homes – including a tradesperson booking portal.

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Is electrically driven heat the way forward for the Republic of Ireland?

The Republic of Ireland is one of many EU countries with increasing focus on the electrification of heat to reduce carbon emissions in downstream energy use. Already, 40% of residential new build developments have a heat pump installed. This is set to increase at the end of 2019 with the introduction of Nearly Zero Energy Buildings, effectively removing condensing gas boilers as an option in new build.

Electrification brings with it challenges for the operation of the electricity grid – pressure from variable loads and high peak loading from electric heating and transport combined with increasing inclusion of peaky renewable generation. So, is the Republic of Ireland firmly on the path to electrification of heat? What can be learned from their approach?

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Behavioural science – the simple techniques you can apply to accelerate customer engagement in the energy sector

Customer engagement is a challenge for the energy sector, embodied by European energy retailers operating in competitive markets. But companies can accelerate their customer engagement initiatives by incorporating simple, cost-effective techniques borrowed from the world of behavioural science.

Customer engagement is a high priority, but where’s the return on investment?

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How will smart charging be delivered to the customer?

The recent announcement of SSEN’s proposed interim solution for managed charging on their network is yet another indication that the electricity system is viewing smart charging as a solution to safeguard their networks from load increases due to EV uptake. The consensus that smart charging is required naturally leads one to question: what is the best approach to implement smart charging? This is a hotly debated topic within the industry and I’m sure we will see different approaches taken from a variety of players. However, one less frequently asked question is: what are the best available technical solutions to deliver smart charging to the customer?

 

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Incentivising growth in the heat pump market – what role can installers play?

For many European countries, heat pumps are seen as an important enabler in the decarbonisation of the domestic heating stock. New build regulations are increasingly supportive, helping heat pumps gain a foothold in new build markets.

Why are we not seeing more growth in heat pump sales in the retrofit market?

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