Published: 04 June 2021
Nigel Jefferson, Commercial Director for renewables specialist Secon, explains the importance of a little-known document which can make a significant difference to costs when it comes to power supply.
There are many challenges facing heat pumps installers and their customers. Including; siting the unit, noise calculations and emitter sizing. Another key hurdle is dealing with the Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) and ensuring the power supply is suitable.
The Energy Network Association (ENA) database identifies heat pumps which are “connect & notify” and those which require pre-installation DNO consent. If consent is required, the EV/HP application form must be submitted to the DNO. Some of these applications come back with proposed charges for homeowners for an upgrade to supply to the property or for network reinforcement.
This is increasingly the case due to the uptake of electric cars and adding charging points to properties. These same clients are also likely to be early adopters of other low carbon technologies, such as heat pumps, and so will be at the forefront of the UK’s drive towards Net Zero 2050. Due to this, DNOs are having to survey more properties to check whether the existing electrical supply is able to cope with the proposed increased demands.
As always with these scenarios, the regions that are most likely to need upgrades to the infrastructure are the rural areas where properties are more commonly on oil and therefore benefit most, both with carbon reduction and fuel saving, from the installation of a heat pump.
The quotations provided by the DNOs for the upgrades can run into the thousands and have the potential to deter many people from installing heat pumps or switching to EVs.
Secon is a specialist distributor with the largest dedicated renewables web shop in the country, supplying a wide range of heat pumps - air and ground source, plus all the cylinders, buffers and ancillaries needed for a complete renewable system. The feedback that we receive from our customers highlights that the electrical connection through the DNO application is becoming more of an issue. We believe it is vital that installers and homeowners are made aware of a little-known document implemented by Ofgem as part of RIIO-ED1 in 2015: DCP 205.
This clarifies the distinction between upgrades to supply and network reinforcement. If an upgrade to supply is required, this is chargeable to the property owner. However, if network reinforcement is required, this will be carried out by the DNO and recovered through DUoS* charges, which are paid by all connected users. Understanding of this distinction is not as good as it should be, even amongst some DNO network designers, resulting in charges being erroneously applied. Heat pump and EV charger installers should ensure that they are sufficiently well informed to advise homeowners on this distinction and so ensure that the correct charging approach is applied. The mechanism also includes properties where un-looping is required.
If, by a property increasing its load due to the installation of EV or HP technology, it means that the electricity distribution network requires reinforcement to carry the additional load, as long as it is 100A or less, this reinforcement will be carried out and funded by the DNO. This will cover increase in transformer capacity, cable size, etc. Additionally, if two or more properties share a ‘looped’ service, the DNO will also install and fund dedicated supplies. However, if the property needs a fuse upgrade or an upgrade in supply from single to three phase, these costs will be chargeable to the property owner.
The good news is that DNOs are beginning to recognise that investments that they can choose to make are in their own interests. For example, deploying three-phase connections (and ensuring that three-phase equipment is routinely installed), has very significant positive grid balancing impacts at minimal cost.
It is recognised that a significant upgrade of the UK’s electrical infrastructure is necessary to accommodate both EVs and heat pumps. The cost will be substantial but it should not be the individual homeowner who picks up the bill because it is government legislation and policy which is driving the country down this route. These costs must be recovered through the DUoS approach. Whilst this means we will all ultimately end up paying a share of the upgrade costs, it does not persecute the individual early adopters who are trying to do their bit.
The Heat Pump Federation, which supports and lobbies for the heat pump industry, is actively working with the DNOs, the ENA and Ofgem to ease the pathway for heat pump deployment. RIIO-ED2 will begin in 2023. It is essential that this new financial settlement allows investment in the grid at a level that delivers the rapid rollout of both heat pumps and EVs which the country needs to meet the legally binding Net Zero 2050 target. This will not happen unless the vast majority of costs are socialised, that is, spread across all bill payers. This approach is justified because it is the whole community which benefits from decarbonisation and from the improvements in air quality which result from the replacement of both petrol and diesel engines, and fossil fuel boilers.
* Distribution Use of System