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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/T023031/1
Title: Network headroom, engineering upgrades and public acceptance (NEUPA): Connecting engineering for heat system change to consumers and citizens
Principal Investigator: Gross, Professor R
Other Investigators:
Staffell, Dr I Henwood, Professor K Pidgeon, Professor NF
Bell, Professor KRW Hawkes, Professor A
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Dr JF Speirs
Project Partners:
Committee on Climate Change Dept for Bus, Energy & Ind Strat (BEIS) ETH Zurich
Government of Scotland Greater London Authority (GLA) NREL (Nat Renewable Energy Laboratory)
Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) SP Energy Networks UK Energy Research Centre
UK Power Networks University of Oxford Welsh Government
Department: Centre for Environmental Policy
Organisation: Imperial College London
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 July 2020 Ends: 31 January 2024 Value (£): 1,232,009
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Sustainable Energy Networks Sustainable Energy Vectors
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
13 Feb 2020 Decarbonising Heat Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
The project will provide the UK's first 'map' of network capacity and headroom and consider case studies in different parts of the UK in detail. It will also assess how heat and cooling demand might change in future using weather data. Based on all this the project will evaluate the nature of potential disruption in local communities created by heat system decarbonisation. It will engage with citizens to investigate their perceptions and expectations of heat system change.

There are significant information gaps associated with the capacity of local energy distribution networks (gas, electricity and heat) to deliver energy for low carbon heating and cooling. Competing options include converting the gas grid to hydrogen, expanding electrification using heat pumps, and district heating. A key consideration is the nature of any constraints on the capacity of local networks, in particular the ability to deliver energy needed to meet peak demands, which can be far higher than average during extreme cold spells and perhaps in future during heat waves. Lack of both data and understanding of what disruption might be associated with heat system change are serious impediments to policy action on heat system decarbonisation. Research commissioned by the Committee on Climate Change analysis of a net zero target for 2050 concludes that utilisation of distribution network capacity is poorly understood. The project sets out to overcome this gap in information by evaluating what is known about distribution network condition based upon information reported by network companies and through interviews and surveys involving industry participants. It will compare electricity and gas networks and also consider district heating.

Consumer acceptability of system change and local level disruption is also central to low carbon heat, yet it is similarly poorly understood and seldom linked to engineering detail at street or neighbourhood level. The project will use deliberative social science research to explore the expectations of citizens to the changes and disruption to local environments that might be associated with competing alternatives for delivering low carbon heating (and cooling) services to homes and businesses.

Recent work on heat decarbonisation is strong with respect to assessment of end use technology options (i.e. what goes into the buildings) and on supply energy vectors (which energy source is utilised). However, it is weak on engineering, economic and social assessment of infrastructure needs and trade-offs - particularly for the 'last mile' or distribution network infrastructures that bring energy services to homes and businesses. This project is explicitly focused on this 'last mile' of infrastructure and combines engineering evaluation and constraint modelling with social science insights from public engagement with proposed heating solutions and their associated disruption(s), to assess the impacts of heat system change and what people think about them.
Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Date Materialised
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Organisation Website: http://www.imperial.ac.uk