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A new multi-partner project led by National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) and Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) is exploring the potential to use electric heat demand in some areas of Scotland to soak up surplus wind generation, rather than wind farms being paid to reduce their output.

The ‘4D Heat’ project – which is funded by Ofgem’s Network Innovation Allowance (NIA) and also includes partners Delta-EE, Everoze and PassivSystems – aims to find a way to match the flexible demand from electric heat to occasions when wind farms are generating too much power, without impacting on the distribution network.

Work will focus on an off-gas grid area in northern Scotland with high proportions of electrified residential heating, and homes with potential to switch to electric heating. It’s estimated there are currently around 380,000 such homes in Scotland which could move to a range of electric heating solutions, from storage heaters to air or ground source heat pumps.

Earlier this year the Scottish government announced plans to ensure all new homes use renewable or low carbon heating from 2024, accelerating the need to understand the impact of increased uptake in electric heating on distribution networks.

The six-month 4D Heat project starts this month with an initial focus on the potential and feasibility of smartly-control electric heating to help solve network constraints.

Kate Jones, Project Manager for SSEN, said: “SSEN is delighted to be partnering on this project which will look at how people’s homes can be made warm and comfortable, whilst making best use of the energy available. This project will also investigate how smart electric heating can help to balance the grid, which as the network operator we would welcome, to help keep costs low for everyone.”

Cian McLeavey-Reville, innovation strategy manager at ESO, said: "If we can prove the feasibility of this concept, it will be a huge win-win for the transition of our energy sector. Reducing the amount of wind curtailed, as well as improving the business case for low-carbon electric heat, would be a major step forward on our path to a net zero carbon economy.”

Matthew Myers, Senior Analyst at Delta-EE, leading the research with Everoze and PassivSystems, said:m“This is a great example of how customers can play a role in the energy transition, with their heating systems automatically adjusting to help avoid wind generation having to be paid to switch off.

"It helps to decarbonise, makes use of digital technology, uses distributed resources, and democratises the energy system through customers having a bigger role. Hence the name of the project: 4D Heat.”