SSH2: New local contexts

Published: 19 June 2019

Introduction

Decarbonising heat is the biggest challenge the UK faces in terms of transforming the energy system to meet carbon reduction targets and achieve our clean growth ambitions.

Energy Systems Catapult delivered the UK’s largest smart, consumer-focused project aimed at overcoming the barriers to the decarbonisation of residential heat – the Smart Systems and Heat (SSH) programme.

SSH Phase 2 (2017-2019) focused on running consumer trials of smart energy services, exploring new business models and market structures (including interoperability) and developing Local Area Energy Plans within three local authorities areas. SSH2 was funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Local areas can play an important role in enabling the UK’s transition to a low carbon future and decarbonising heat in our homes and buildings.

As part of SSH, the Catapult has worked collaboratively with three local areas – Newcastle upon Tyne, Bridgend and Greater Manchester – to pilot a whole systems approach to local area energy planning, develop smart energy plans and engage a range of stakeholders focused on responding to the challenge of decarbonising heat.

Key points

  • Local ambition to meet the challenge of climate change is stepping up. In some cases, new initiatives are already working to accelerate the move to a sustainable future, ahead of national 2050 climate change targets.
  • Even without statutory obligations and sizable resources, local commitment to change has manifested in early action. This could be harnessed to support transition, improve the quality of homes, tackle fuel poverty and realise the economic benefits that are important for local areas.
  • Key strategic decisions on energy networks could be much better informed by an open local area energy planning dialogue enabled by local government. This could include: gas, electricity, etc and heat network operators with industry more widely and engaging local people and communities. This needs to recognise and manage the risks of an emerging patchwork of distinct local energy system designs.
  • While there is a high degree of uncertainty around the costs, benefits and risks of decarbonising heat, a positive whole system and well-planned approach could save the UK billions of pounds compared to business as usual.
  • There is increasing awareness in local areas of the potential role of hydrogen in future energy systems and the need to consider this as a decarbonisation option for heat.
  • Local areas see the opportunity for innovation across energy generation, supply, storage, and use and management, including heating at home. Historically they have focussed on deployment of individual technology solutions, however there is growing understanding of the role of real world innovation environments in helping to accelerate innovative new heating products, services and business models to market.