DecarbonISation PAThways for Cooling and Heating (DISPATCH)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Sch of Engineering


Heat demand in the UK accounts for around 44% of final energy consumption and is currently predominantly obtained by burning natural gas and oil, representing about 90% of the fuel share, while renewable energy sources supply only a fraction of it. Recent legally binding net-zero targets for greenhouse gas emissions (by 2045 in Scotland and by 2050 for the UK), will truly test our nation's technical and engineering competence and ability to innovate. The net-zero transition will not only require radical changes in technologies-it will also result in a profound impact on our society.
A targeted decarbonisation framework, built from the participation and contribution of every home and every customer, is needed, so each of them may find optimal place and role as a fully functioning part of a wider smart energy system. This will require innovation.
DISPATCH asserts that a net-zero transition in the UK should be planned and realised as a "bottom-up" and "user-centric" approach, where scalability and flexibility are obtained through the aggregation, sharing and control of the resources of individual customers, in such a way that the search for optimal solutions always starts with customers' needs and always ends without reducing customers' comfort levels and sacrificing their wellbeing.
DISPATCH will focus on multi-vector energy solutions for decarbonisation of heating and cooling in residential and typical commercial applications (office buildings, educational facilities, etc.). These can be specified as generic parameterised models, as opposed to medium and large industrial and non-domestic applications. Our decarbonisation framework will also include cooling, which is anticipated to increase due to climate change-caused global warming (since 1884, all of the UK's ten warmest years occurred in years from 2002), but also due to provision of automatic or user-set temperature regulation by reversible heat pumps.
Furthermore, as the net-zero transition through electrification of heating requires electrical-thermal solutions to be better in all aspects than the currently predominant natural gas infrastructure for heating, we will use electrification of heating as a "reference case" for comparative evaluation and ranking of other considered decarbonisation routes.
Arguably, the highest potential for the provision of flexibility and balancing services is through increased customer participation in energy management and coordinated shifting of energy demands in the UK's 27 million homes and 1.4 million SMEs. However, to ensure wider customer engagement and to increase their willingness to take part in various demand-side management (DSM) schemes, they should be able to access appropriate energy exchange and energy trading services for their voluntary or interest-based participation.
DISPATCH approaches the above challenges as actual opportunities for exploring synergies, interoperabilities and the overall integration potential of different energy vectors, in order to identify the most cost-effective solutions for reshaping and redistributing energy flows. For example, we will repurpose balancing and demand shifting controls used in normal operating conditions as low-cost resources for automated frequency response in emergency conditions, and compare its benefits with recently introduced procurement of stability as an ancillary service by NGESO.


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