Heat as a Service: Understanding evidence needs and research gaps

31 Oct 2019

Background to Heat as a Service (HaaS)

The need to accelerate the decarbonisation of heating, as well as the rise of the ‘smart home’, mean that there is an increasing focus on the role of innovative consumer offerings in driving the shift to zero carbon domestic heating. In the context of these agendas, Heat as a Service (HaaS) models which provide customers with an agreed heating plan, rather than simply providing units of fuel are receiving increased attention, and are perceived as having potential to support a step change in the rate of heat decarbonisation.

Project Aims

The aim of this project* is to explore the evidence needs of key stakeholders around the impacts of, and barriers to, offering heat as a service. Accordingly, we organised a workshop on 16th September in London, to facilitate face-to-face networking and knowledge-sharing between stakeholders, and help them network with other research organisations. We gathered 40 participants from academic, industry, civil society, and government sectors to discuss Heat as a Service and its potential as an energy delivery model.

Workshop - viability of HaaS models & the data

The workshop was divided into three sessions. In the first session we had speakers from Energy System Catapult, Bristol Energy, Citizens Advice, UKERC Heat Network, and EPSRC, discussing the smart system heat programme, the trial experience, consumer issues, and providing an overview of UKRI’s heat decarbonisation priorities.

Questions raised in this session were mainly in relation to the viability of HaaS models for different customer segments, data collection and data interoperability issues and the role of policy in making HaaS models commercial. Speakers responded by saying these are key challenge and the ESC and Bristol Energy are considering this in their ongoing work.

© Imperial / UKERC
 
Ambitions and opportunities for HaaS

The second session was a facilitated discussion session. Participants were divided into groups, focusing on what work is already happening in relation to HaaS, and what are the ambitions and opportunities for HaaS? What are the barriers and knowledge gap? And how might we overcome the barriers and knowledge gap identified in the earlier discussions?

In relation to the HaaS models for different customer segments, it was highlighted that granular segmentation of customer types is very important, as is a close relationship with each customer to ensure information provision and choice is clear. There seems to be an underlying trust issue between customers and energy providers and HaaS can help overcome that.

© Imperial / UKERC
 
Pitching ideas for HaaS

The third session was a Dragon’s Den activity, in which participants worked in groups to develop their ideas about a new HaaS research project. They were asked to develop a 1-minute ‘elevator pitch’ describing their proposed project, and then voted on their favourite project developed by other groups using bundles of imitation money.

In relation to the role of policy in making HaaS models commercial, the answer was: modelling risks across consumer propositions is challenging and varies widely depending on the segmentation of customer groups. There are challenges relating to tenure, length of contract, asset ownership, data/money flows and policy needs to recognise the need for both consumer and asset protection measures.

© Imperial / UKERC
 
Conclusions

To conclude, we have identified a number of challenges and opportunities for HaaS. We have also considered if Heat as a Service is a viable solution to decarbonise heat in the UK. Some of these challenges include lack of proven market, lack of skills and capacity, lack of finance for transition to enabling technology, and finally lack of strong policy. We will shortly release a report detailing the current state of knowledge and research gaps.

Organisers:
  • Dr Zoya Pourmirza, Newcastle University
  • Dr Jess Britton, University of Exeter
  • Dr Angela Minas, The University of Manchester
  • Dr Catarina Marques, London South Bank University
  • Dr Sarah Royston, Anglia Ruskin University

 

* This project is part of IVUGER (Increasing Visibility of Underrepresented Groups in Energy Research) funded by UKERC Whole Systems Networking Fund.