Field Trial Learnings – Insight Report

Published: 7 June 2019

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.


Currently, consumers find it hard to control how much time, effort and money they spend on trying to get what they want from their heating system.

They buy units of fuel, when what they care about is the quality of their experiences:  getting comfortable in a warm lounge; getting refreshed in a power shower; winding down in a hot bath. At the moment, many put up with damp, drafts and overheating, presenting opportunities for improvement.

During 2017/18, Energy Systems Catapult carried out a field trial with a unique Living Lab of 108 households to test how new business models such as selling Heat as a Service, could give consumers better control of how much they spend getting the experiences they want from their heating.

Data could enable industry to design high-quality low carbon solutions that consumers will want because they are as good as, or even better than, what they have today.

Key points

Digitalisation has enabled people to control three aspects of their heating to create their own heating experience:

  • Times when they want to be warm;
  • Spaces they keep warm; and
  • Temperatures they want in each space.

Universally, people enjoyed having improved control. But People vary greatly in how much they value comfort and how much they are willing to pay for it:

  • 62% of people were Comfort focussed – Thermally sensitive, willing to pay more for comfort;
  • 21% of people were Cost focussed – Cost sensitive willing to sacrifice comfort;
  • 17% of people were Value focussed – Neither thermally sensitive nor sacrificing comfort.

Offering people a type of Heat as a Service (HaaS) offering called a “Heat Plan” enabled us to trial whether HaaS propositions could provide a path to decarbonisation.

  • Around 50% of Living Lab households elected to trial HaaS;
  • 78% of Living Lab households confirmed that smart heating controls improved or maintained comfort levels (eg. 56% improved, 22% maintained and 22% worse).
  • 85% of Living Lab households trialling Heat as a Service were open to switching to low carbon heating when it came time to replace their boiler – compared to around a third of the general population – as long as current levels of comfort and cost could be guaranteed.