Electricity network constraints and the 2024 New Build Heat Standard: research

Research looking into the network constraints issues associated with the electrification of heat for domestic new build developments. The focus of the work was on connection costs for these developments, how the cost is defined, and apportioned to the relevant stakeholder.

7 Conclusions

This project, The Research into Electricity Network Constraints and the 2024 New Build Heat Standards project has found that the adoption of zero emissions heating in new developments will generally increase the infrastructure costs for many developments, however, the scale of that increase will be variable based on factors including the selection of heating technology, the wider design of the development, the geographical location of the development site, and the available capacity and status of the adjacent electricity network. In some cases, the impact may be minimal, while in others it will mean that the development becomes unviable. Therefore, the major impact of adoption of zero emissions heating will be an increase in uncertainty for housing developers.

It is critical to consider costs beyond the energy infrastructure, such as the costs of the technology appliance, installation costs and the operational costs of the resulting heating system, when comparing costs of heating technologies. These costs are out of the scope of this project but are included in the scope of a separate project commissioned by the Scottish Government; Costs of Zero Carbon Heat Research carried out by Ramboll.

It is also important to consider buildings and developments holistically. The heating technology cannot be thought of in isolation; the building fabric has a huge impact on the heating load and constraints, and understanding the non-heating load of the house, including the presence of EVs is important to understanding the network impact.

Insight can be gained about the available capacity in the surrounding network through information published by DNOs including heat maps which indicate areas that can more readily facilitate new connections, and the Long-Term Development Statement (LTDS). However, it is increasingly important that developers work with IDNOs and DNOs closely from an early stage in complex developments, and that all stakeholders are open to exploring innovative solutions such as energy efficiency and management. If all stakeholders work together on a development, information can be shared and used in design decisions, and ideas around flexibility, optimisation and innovation can be explored.

There are further barriers to adoption of zero emissions heating technology, beyond the increased energy infrastructure costs. These include a lack of understanding about the technology, a lack of skills for design, installation and maintenance, a lack of supply chain relationships for the technologies themselves, and concern about the user acceptance.

The user experience must be a key consideration when designing and selecting heating technologies. Any technology must effectively heat the home providing a good level of comfort and be understandable and easy to use. As the experience of most of the public in Scotland is with fossil fuel central heating systems, user education may be required to ensure an electricity-based system is operated as it should be. Another key consideration should be the operational costs of the solution, to ensure technologies are selected that do not disadvantage the occupiers.

As increasing levels of zero emissions heating technologies are adopted, confidence and experience will increase in their installation, operation and management. It will be important to consider how to best support the transition towards successful adoption.

7.1 Recommendations and next steps

The next steps following this project could include

  • Combine learning from related projects: The Scottish Government have commissioned several pieces of work to understand the impact and support the implementation of the 2024 New Build Heat Standard. These projects and relevant external research should be combined, compared and synthesised into a clear, overarching picture to inform policy and implementation.
  • Support the transition to zero emissions heating: There are barriers to the transition to zero emissions heating including lack of understanding and confidence in heating technologies, business risks for the developers and stakeholder involved in projects, and cost and risk implication of the adoption. The Scottish Government could support this transition by consulting on the issues, barriers and solutions towards the adoption of renewable or zero emissions heating in new homes and developing and promoting best practice.
  • Engage stakeholders in collaboration, innovation and best practice: A key conclusion is that there is a need for developers, network operators and technology providers to work closely together and be open to innovative methods. Promoting and encouraging collaboration and sharing best practice between stakeholders will equip them to successfully transition to zero emissions heating technologies.
  • Further exploration of district heating: The district heating technology option was found to have the least impact on the electricity asset requirements and is likely to be the most efficient and optimisable solution. While installation costs are high, new developments should have the lowest cost barriers to adoption of district heat. Exploration of these barriers, benefits and best practice for district heating could be considered.
  • Explore barriers and solutions for adoption for retrofit heating: This project is focused on new build domestic properties for the 2024 new build heat regulations. However, the adoption of decarbonised heat across the retrofit housing stock is a significant challenge, with very different barriers and solutions. The Scottish Government could build knowledge in this area to inform policy and implementation to support this transition.


Email: 2024heatstandard@gov.scot

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