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South Wales hybrid heat project targets flexible approach to power needs

A trial of 75 hybrid heating systems installed in South Wales properties is intended to curb reliance on gas, while avoiding peak electricity costs through the use of smart technology

A hybrid heat project in South Wales designed to allow for “smart” switching between gas and electric systems is being put forward as an effective solution to help curb carbon emissions.

75 hybrid heating systems that combine efficient gas boilers with air source heat pumps were last year installed by PassivSystems in properties across Bridgend in South Wales with the aim to allow residents demand response services (DSR) to curb higher energy costs at times of peak demand.

The £5.2m ‘Freedom Project’ is largely the result of funding provided by the Network Innovation Allowance to electricity supplier Western Power Distribution and gas distribution network operator Wales & West Utilities.

PassivSystems is responsible for managing the current project and has developed the algorithms and architecture of the smart switching system, as well as recruiting homes involved in the trials.

A joint release on the trial project has argued that the flexible approach to gas and electric heating is intended to allow consumers to participate in sometimes profitable DSR programmes that were restricted to businesses or major energy users.

The statement said, “This highly flexible approach has the potential to enable consumers to participate in DSR programmes. National Grid pays aggregators to reduce demand, which enables grid balancing without the need to generate more power to meet peak demands.”

PassivSystems chief executive Colin Calder has argued that hybrid solutions could be a major contributor towards decarbonising the UK’s heating needs and balancing demand on the electricity grid. Mr Calder added that this could be achieved while also benefitting consumers themselves.

He said, “Alongside reform of the capacity market, enabling householders to participate in demand side response will open the door for consumers to benefit financially from delivering a more flexible energy market.”

“Hybrid heating systems can move as much demand to gas as they like – they have complete load flexibility. The Freedom Project has demonstrated our ability to deliver DSR without the usual constraints that businesses face. We can share heat load between gas and electricity without compromising consumer comfort.”

With a full report on the Freedom Project due for release later this year, the system developers have claimed that initial results have found that the use of connected controls allows for “smart” switching to gas to avoid electricity capacity restrictions.

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