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Renewable heat group calls for three-phase electricity in all new UK homes

The Renewable Energy Association calls on government to mandate a new approach for electricity supply in preparation for increased adoption of technologies such as heat pumps

The Renewable Energy Association (REA) trade body is pushing for a drastic overhaul of UK electric supply standards in new homes to support uptake of renewable heat technologies in line with government decarbonisation strategies.

A report from the organisation is urging government to install three phase electricity supply in place of a single-phase system that has been commonly in use in different forms since before the Second World War. Embracing such a change is intended to better meet upcoming energy challenges such as the adoption of renewable heat installations.

Energy provider Western Power Distribution has supported the findings, which have argued for authorities to demand new homes commit to the revised standards as part of meeting longer-term industrial and lower carbon strategies.

REA chief executive Dr Nina Skorupska said that efforts to reduce carbon emissions from the built environment would be required.

She said, “Three phase power supplies in new homes can facilitate a more rapid deployment of renewable heat systems, greater uptake in rooftop solar PV, and greater choice in charging your electric vehicle.”

“Additional costs to housebuilders are already low for a three-phase connection compared to a single-phase in new homes. If the government compelled the network operators to fit new homes in this way, the cost would fall even lower.”

Current supply approach

The REA and Western Power Distribution report noted that the current UK electricity supply model uses a three phase solution within the mains cables running in a street. However, individual homes are mostly connected to these cables via a single phase.

This is a notable difference from countries such as the Netherlands that connect homes via three phases. The use of this supply allows loads from different appliances to be split across the phases.

REA argued that three phases would ensure greater capacity to support electricity needs from heat pump use and the charging of electric vehicles.

The association added, “While acknowledging that existing home charges are sufficient for most households and vehicles at present, this would allow for some consumers to charge at a more rapid rate, over 7kW, empowering them for a future when electric cars have longer-range, higher capacity batteries. Three-phase supplies would additionally facilitate greater solar PV deployment.”

Despite a predicted increase upfront costs for adopting three phase supplies in new homes, longer-term benefit could be realised in the push to cleaner energy deployment, according to the report.

Mark Dale, innovation and low carbon engineer at Western Power Distribution, said that a major transition within how the UK distributes energy would require much greater flexibility in the future that could be supported via three phase adoption.

He said, “With the connection of more and more distributed generation on our networks we need to become more flexible in the way we design and operate our networks. The current policy of installing single-phase supplies in new homes has been the norm since before the Second World War and should be reviewed.”

“Three phase connections will allow for more solar PV and battery storage, and well as for faster home EV charging. It will give customers and network operators the flexibility required to match demand and generation as efficiently as possible by utilising smart meter tariffs whilst, at the same time, reducing network losses.”

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