homenews and insights sse and national grid pilot project to use electricity transformers to heat homes

Industry collaboration to turn power grid transformers into heat network ‘boilers’ that can save millions of tonnes of CO2

Deeside Ariel

SSE Energy Solutions and National Grid have today unveiled an innovative new project that could decarbonise heat networks, capturing waste heat from electricity transformers to generate hot water and space heating for homes and businesses.

It is estimated that the heat recovery project will initially reduce heat network carbon emissions by more than 40% versus traditional gas-led systems. Critically, the technology offers a route to net-zero heat when applied to transformers served by 100% renewable electricity from wind or solar farms.

The project has the potential to save millions of tonnes of CO2 every year if rolled out across National Grid’s network of transformers across England and Wales, harnessing this waste heat via SSE heat networks to serve towns and cities across the region.

Nathan Sanders, Managing Director of Distributed Energy at SSE Energy Solutions, said: “Electric power transformers generate huge amounts of heat as a by-product when electricity flows through them. At the moment, this heat is just vented directly into the atmosphere and wasted.

“By their very nature, electricity transformers are primarily located where people live, work and consume energy meaning that they have the potential to be incredibly valuable community assets if we apply a bit of clever thinking.

“This groundbreaking project aims to capture that waste heat and effectively turn transformers into community ‘boilers’ that serve local heat networks with a low or even zero-carbon alternative to fossil-fuel powered heat sources such as gas boilers.

“We see heat networks as a key part of the UK’s future low carbon energy infrastructure, enabling us to exploit waste heat sources and use these to heat homes and businesses across the country.

“At SSE Energy Solutions we are always looking at innovative ways to improve our operational efficiency, produce value for customers and reduce energy bills. Our partnership with National Grid does exactly that and decarbonising our heat networks through the electrification of heat is just one of the exciting ways we’re driving the transition to net zero.”

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Alexander Yanushkevich, Deeside Innovation Manager of National Grid, said: “We are proud to partner with SSE Energy Solutions to develop this innovative technology and support decarbonisation of heat, which is essential to achieve net zero. When the solution is fully developed and tested, we can use it in any of our 350 substations and provide heat to local consumers. Together with SSE, National Grid is a Principal Partner of COP26, and projects like these are a great example of how, taking a whole system approach, the UK can lead the way in helping accelerate decarbonisation.”

SSE Energy Solutions’ heat recovery technology is currently undergoing a proof-of-concept trial at National Grid’s Deeside Centre for Innovation, the first facility in Europe where assets associated with electricity networks can be tested off-grid. The centre is designed as a unique environment for developments and trials of new technologies and practices. Deeside is a key part of National Grid Electricity Transmission’s Innovation programme, a series of projects, informed and developed by stakeholders, innovating to address the challenges of the energy transition.

SSE is a founder member of the Heat Networks Industry Council, an industry-wide group collaborating with the government to unlock the potential of zero carbon heat networks and provide around 20% of the UK’s heat by 2050. HNIC members are committed to creating 20-35,000 new direct jobs and investment of up to £50bn in the UK market, while decarbonising heat networks by 2035. At present, SSE Group operates 18 large heating and cooling networks across the UK, serving over 10,500 customers.


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Richard Hoggart Building, College Green
Distributed Energy Infrastructure | 21 Apr 2021

SSE teams up with Goldsmiths, University of London to slash carbon emissions

Energy solutions provider, SSE Enterprise has signed a joint development agreement with Goldsmiths, University of London to design and deliver a low carbon campus infrastructure in pursuit of the university’s ambitious net zero targets.

The project will see SSE Enterprise’s distributed energy division look to consolidate all of Goldsmiths’ significant energy consuming buildings onto a centralised campus-wide heat and power network. It is estimated that the first phase of the project will save the institution an average of 1,375 tonnes of CO2 per year – the equivalent annual energy use of 144 homes.

The project has a core focus to reduce the carbon emissions associated with heat, as the university pledges to become completely carbon neutral by 2025. The system will heat the buildings using a low-carbon heat pump, removing the majority of gas consumption on site and saving up to 7,850 MWh of gas usage per year.

By integrating all power onto a single private network, the university will be able to use a much higher proportion of any onsite renewables, without the risk of exporting that electricity onto the grid. The new power system will expand on the university’s existing solar resources, installing a further 400kW of solar PV into the new private network, which will then be used to supply the heat pump, further reducing carbon emissions on site.

Giles Newton, Head of Public Sector & Regulated Markets at SSE Enterprise, said: “By bringing the whole campus onto a centralised system, we are able to integrate more renewable generation into its buildings without having to upgrade each one individually. While previous projects of this kind have focused on single technology solutions, we have chosen to adopt a whole systems approach. Integrating the entire system enables Goldsmiths to closely manage its carbon emissions and future proof the campus for renewable efficiency.”

Everton Williams, Deputy Director Estates at Goldsmiths, added: “The global climate crisis is a growing threat and one that we must target head on. The technologies and experience available to support organisations such as ourselves has developed exponentially in recent years and it’s vital that we harness these solutions now to create a more green and sustainable future.

“We are excited to begin this journey with SSE Enterprise as they support us in our goals to deliver our PLAN25 strategy and achieve a completely carbon neutral campus by 2025. We have already made significant strides in this area with our investment in solar PV panels, but this new partnership will see us fully embracing a ‘whole systems’ approach by adopting and integrating other low-carbon technologies.”

SSE Enterprise have already designed a concept for the system and are currently supporting Goldsmiths with applications for grant funding to enable the construction of the network and potentially the long-term operation of the system over a 25-year period. The 1MWth heat pump set to be installed will supply 6,500 MWh of low carbon heat to the site every year.

SSE has been confirmed as a major partner for this year’s COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow in November. SSE Group aims to deliver a £7.5bn low carbon investment programme, developing some of the assets and infrastructure required for the UK to reach its target of net zero emissions by 2050.

Read moreSSE teams up with Goldsmiths, University of London to slash carbon emissions