The UK Government has committed to ensuring that the transition to low-carbon buildings is affordable and achievable for all, and to delivering a package of measures to scale up deployment of heat pumps to 600,000 per annum by 2028, which became known as the Heat Pump Ready Programme. This is one of four Heat Pump Ready projects that BEIS has commissioned City Science for. Our project took a holistic approach to heat pump deployment in Oxfordshire, based on a “community-focused” one-stop-shop that we call the Home Efficiency Hub. This community-focused model brought together a range innovative components of programme design based on best-practice research, which delivered an improved consumer journey, cost reduction and an extensive understanding of the network impacts of high-density heat pump deployment.
There are a variety of considerable barriers that prevent the appeal of heat pumps to homeowners. These include finance and affordability; limited coordination between stakeholders; lack of awareness; consumer willingness to risk new technology or accommodate the disruption and skills in the supply chain. Aiming to address some of these, we collaborated with existing community networks including those of the National Energy Foundation (NEF) and Oxfordshire and Cherwell Councils combined with the exploitation of our industry-leading digital tools to produce a geospatial analysis of heat pump deployment in suburban Oxfordshire and produce evidence-based actions that minimise the barriers to high density heat pump deployment in this region.
City Science Response
Phase 1 is the feasibility stage where our model was developed and applied to the energy network to produce a target heat pump deployment rate. This reached 530 heat pumps at a density reaching 25% of the Low-Voltage (LV) Network.
Phase 2 considered the viability of achieving this required density of heat pump deployment, which requires householders to fund 60% of the dwelling’s heat pump installation. For this reason, our project pioneered the following innovations:
User-Centric Consumer Engagement
Our approach to engaging consumers was user-centric and was informed by key learnings from Project LEO (Local Energy Oxfordshire). Based on these, we addressed key consumer barriers through a community-based, street-by-street engagement methodology that enabled in-depth engagement with households in selected clusters. Additional support is provided by our community engagement officer who is the first point of contact for residents on their decarbonisation journey.
The one-stop-shop simplifies pathways for the consumer. Our one-stop-shop model provides the customer with a single point of contact that integrates financing, project management, design and support services.
Core to our model is a prosumer approach that bundles heat pumps, retrofit and onsite generation. Against the context of rising energy prices, a prosumer model offers the best opportunity to reduce energy costs for consumers and insulate them from the energy price volatility. A prosumer model is therefore likely to be highly attractive to a broad range of consumers and, combined with a community-focused, one-stop-shop approach, maximises uptake.
Our approach applied a digital-first model, building on customer engagement learnings from Trust Power. This means that the customer journey of our one-stop-shop can be seamlessly processed digitally to minimise barriers. This approach enables us to show consumers the expected benefits of the prosumer model early-on within the process and enable them to compare this to their existing tariff.
Our modelling evidenced that against the context of rising energy prices, a Prosumer Model offers the opportunity to save roughly £800 p.a. when compared to a heat pump retrofit without solar photovoltaics (PV). Under the Energy Price Guarantee, the Prosumer System has the potential to be 6% - 24% cheaper than retaining a gas boiler over a 30-year period (dependent on the building typology). A Prosumer Model is therefore significantly more attractive to a broad range of consumers and maximises heat pump uptake.
As an independent service, the Home Efficiency Hub now works with a network of trusted local installers and suppliers with a focus on helping residents get the right equipment to suit their needs following the PAS 2035 process, a new British standard that creates a recognisable quality standard for the retrofit and energy efficiency sector for housing.
During our engagement with companies operating in the sector, we identified a number of practical supply chain support mitigations. These mitigations were discussed during interviews with companies operating both in the local area and nationally, who have validated that they will have a positive impact on the sector.