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National Grid to use excess heat from electricity transformers to warm homes

National Grid has said it will start pumping heat from its electricity transformers into heat networks to generate hot water and heat homes in efforts to help decarbonise the grid.

The heat-recovery technology is currently undergoing a proof of concept trial at National Grid’s Deeside Centre for Innovation.

It is estimated that the project will initially reduce heat network carbon emissions by more than 40 per cent versus traditional gas-led systems. It also paves the way for net-zero heat networks when applied to transformers served by solely renewable electricity from wind or solar farms.

National Grid, which is working on the project with energy firm SSE, says the approach could save millions of tonnes of CO2 every year if rolled out across its entire network of transformers across England and Wales.

National Grid’s innovation manager Alexander Yanushkevich said: “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.”

At present, SSE Group operates 18 large heating and cooling networks across the UK, serving around 10,500 customers.

It is planning to invest around £2bn in a mix of low-carbon and other power projects this year, and is weighing up further investments ahead of COP26 in Glasgow. SSE Renewables is committed to delivering 30TWh of renewables a year by 2030.

Nathan Sanders, managing director 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 ground-breaking 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.

Last month, MPs warned Parliament that the charging requirements from millions of new electric vehicles expected to enter British roads in the near future risks causing blackouts on the electricity grid.

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