Regen is working with Wales & West Utilities on a new regionalised approach to understanding the future of heat and the role of gas in our energy system.

Underpinning all the disruptive technological changes transforming energy is still good old-fashioned infrastructure – the pipes and wires that move energy around. Over the past few years Regen has done an extensive amount of work to understand how our electricity networks will evolve in a decentralised and decarbonised UK energy system. Much of this work has centred around undertaking future energy scenario assessments for Distribution Network Operators (DNOs)[1]. These assessments started in 2015/16 and have evolved and expanded over the past 3 years, with the Regen team undertaking analysis on seven of the UK’s electricity network licence areas.

Over the past 6 months, Regen has also continued its work on whole-system thinking, expanding our approach to consider the UK gas network, working closely with one of the major UK Gas Distribution Network Operators (GDNs), Wales & West Utilities.

Decarbonising heat is one of the biggest challenges we face to reduce our emissions and meet our climate change obligations. GDNs like Wales & West Utilities are, therefore, at the forefront of some of the significant changes that are happening to our energy system, dealing with:

  • The evolving landscape for developing new flexible gas fired electricity generation
  • The increased volume of green gas being injected into the gas network
  • The increasing use of heat pumps and smart hybrid systems
  • The extensive energy efficiency improvements that are needed on the UK’s housing stock
  • The potential for groups of houses and commercial premises switching their heat supply to District Heat Networks
  • The potential for greater use of hydrogen as a vector for supplying heat

Wales & West Utilities have already completed work in this area, through initiatives such as the Freedom Project[2], a collaboration with Western Power Distribution around smart hybrid heating and the 2050 Energy Pathfinder[3] project, which created a simulator that models future energy supply and demand, carbon emissions and customer bills.

Over the summer Regen was commissioned to create a methodology to develop regional future energy scenarios to support Wales & West Utilities’ longer-term demand and future network investment planning. Building on this methodology, Regen is now working with Wales & West Utilities to deliver a Network Innovation Allowance funded project[4] to produce regionalised, locally distributed and scenario-based forecasts out to 2035, for Wales & West Utilities South West and Wales licence areas. This approach assesses key system elements of the gas network (see Figure 1), essentially providing forecasts around:

  • Key sources of demand (heat, power and transport)
  • Modes of supply (including heat delivery technologies and supply fuels

Figure 1: Regen’s gas network system elements diagram

Regen Gas Network Diagram (High Res)

This innovative approach to develop localised and evidence-driven regional future energy scenarios for gas networks is the first of its kind. A key focus for Regen and Wales & West Utilities is to identify areas where disruptive shifts in energy generation and demand, such as the take up of electric vehicles and heat pumps, could affect both the gas and electricity networks. Ultimately this approach paves the way to enabling closer alignment between regional gas and electricity network planning, which will be essential to a ‘whole system’ approach.

Regen and Wales & West Utilities are keen to engage with key stakeholders and customers as we undertake these regional future energy scenarios, through a series of face to face consultation events. Out first is being held at Exeter Castle on the 21st March, please visit the event page to find out more, view the agenda and book your free place:

Future Energy Scenarios for Heat and Gas in the South West

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[1] See summary of Regen’s regional scenario assessments for WPD, UKPN and SSEN: https://www.regen.co.uk/project/the-future-of-network-infrastructure-studies/

[2] See Freedom Project Interim Report (April 2018):

https://www.wwutilities.co.uk/media/2714/freedom-project-interim-report-april-2018.pdf

[3] See WWU 2050 Pathfinder short paper (February 2018):

https://www.wwutilities.co.uk/media/2661/2050-energy-pathfinder-short-paper.pdf

[4] See Smarter Networks Portal project registration for Gas Distribution Regional Future Energy Scenarios: http://www.smarternetworks.org/project/nia_wwu_054

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