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Electricity suppliers should prepare for heat pump demand

Air source heat pump (ASHP) installers should consult with electricity distribution network operators (DNOs) before fitting the technology.

Furthermore, manufacturers should take an active role in understanding the network implications of their equipment.

These are the findings of a report commissioned by the Department of Energy and Climate Change to assess the implications of ASHPs on the domestic network infrastructure.

Conducted by the National Energy Action (NEA) the report identifies a lack of existing evidence on the impact of ASHPs on the electrical distribution system, despite the predicted expansion of the domestic market via the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme (RHI) announced in October.

The NEA found the role of DNOs to be central to implementation of demand management of ASHPs, and that the request for support from electricity suppliers is justified given that customers are currently paying £3.6bn annually for electricity distribution, which accounts for around 15% of the average domestic customer’s bill, or around £76 per year.

It also recommends that network analysis will be required by DNOs to permit high-density installations.

Furthermore, they should also encourage installers to follow the correct procedures when proposing to install ASHP to minimise resource drain, adding, “A mechanism should be considered to be put in place to encourage householders to contact DNOs first.”

Heat pump manufacturers also have a role to play. The report states that they should supply data to DNOs so that they understand the full implications of their product for the network.

“Some are beginning to provide a level of information, while others need to do more in providing data to DNOs to help them assess areas such as start up characteristics of inverter heat pumps – how long does it take for the motor to start, once up to speed do the harmonic emissions cease, how often is the motor likely to start and stop.”

As the technology becomes more prevalent network analysis will be required by DNOs in order to permit installations, which the report claims will encourage installers to follow the correct procedures when proposing to install ASHPs will minimise resource drain.

David Lynch, NEA spokesperson, says: “This represents a great opportunity to help the electricity industry find the best way to keep down the cost of connecting customers to the grid whilst also minimising the cost of meeting domestic consumer needs for the fuel poor.”

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