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WPD launches 'Equinox' project to explore how heat pumps can provide flexibility

The DNO is expecting 600,000 heat pump installations on its network by 2028. Image: WPD.

The DNO is expecting 600,000 heat pump installations on its network by 2028. Image: WPD.

Western Power Distribution (WPD) has launched a new project dubbed Equinox, to explore the potential of domestic low-carbon heat technologies like heat pumps to provide flexibility.

Working together with project partners Passiv Systems, SP Energy Networks, Octopus Energy, SERO Homes, West Midlands Combined Authority, Guidehouse and the Welsh Government, the £15.38 million project will develop novel commercial arrangements to support the technologies.

The distribution network operator (DNO) expects Equinox – which stands for Equitable Novel Flexibility Exchange – to answer key questions about the role operators can play in proactively encouraging heat decarbonisation, in the most cost-efficient way for customers, it said.

Substantial network benefits are expected to be delivered through the project, thanks to the deferral or avoidance of network reinforcements through unlocking the flexibility of assets like heat pumps.

“WPD believes that everyone should be able to access the benefits that can be offered through heat flexibility. In our Equinox project, we want to make this happen by developing and trialling the commercial arrangements that are needed for this to become a reality,” Stuart Fowler, WPD innovation engineer said.

“Through unlocking the flexibility of heat pumps, we hope that the project will allow DNOs to effectively plan investment and reduce barriers for all residential customers to provide flexibility.”

WPD is expecting an additional 600,000 heat pumps to be connected to its network by 2028, according to its RIIO-ED2 plan. In October, the DNO unveiled a new streamlined process for the connection of heat pumps and other technologies like electric vehicles, to ease this adoption.

Equinox is being part funded by Ofgem’s Network Innovation Competition, receiving £7.2 million. It was one of four projects selected by the regulator in June 2021, focusing predominantly on green heat and flexibility.

Along with the current project partners, WPD said the team will look to secure additional supplier support to help with commercial trials. Currently, the project is expected to run from March 2022 till January 2026.

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