Step by step: how to support domestic heat decarbonisation

Consumers need their hands held every step of the way as they consider whether a heat pump – or an interim hybrid solution – might be the right choice to help future proof their home in the net zero transition. Ahead of his appearance at Utility Week Live in May, EDF’s Dan Hopcroft tells Utility Week what well-structured support should look like.

Decarbonisation of domestic heating will be the great enabler of the UK’s net zero transition. For EDF’s zero carbon heat director Dan Hopcroft, it’s therefor the advice consumers get about their heat options which will make or break the nation’s mission to hit it’s 2050 target.

While low carbon heating technologies like heat pumps will eventually become the norm, today they are undoubtedly a novelty and the process of installing them often seems shrouded in uncertainty and complexity for the average consumer, he says.

What then is EDF doing to try and make heat pumps accessible and how is it engaging its customers when offering other low carbon solutions such as solar?

The answer, says Hopcroft, lies in providing them with impartial advice and education which sits outside company marketing channels.

“[The marketing] has to be supplemented, and it is supplemented, by good advice that is not trying to sell anything. It’s just advice which paints the picture for consumers in terms of what kind of savings would you expect from doing A,B,C,D, pointing people at independent advice so that they can check it out for themselves and make sure that they’ve been told something that’s for real.”

With this foundation for consumer confidence in place, Hopcroft says the next requirement is to help customers clearly understand the journey to installing a heat pump – step by step. And if they feel that’s a journey they want to take, it’s essential they then receive a home visit so that an expert can validate the feasibility of the installation and again walk the customer through the process face to face.

“The survey is another chance to interact with the customer and to actually take them on that journey to advise them and show them what’s going to happen and how it’s going to work. Whether that’s solar, insulation or a heat pump, the customer gets a home survey and is talked through, walked through, what will be done.”

But while Hopcroft is a believer in heat pumps as dominant solution for domestic heating in the long term, he’s realistic about their accessibility to many consumers now. To keep making progress on decarbonisation while the heat pump market – and consumer confidence in it – matures, Hopcroft believes there should be a bigger conversation in the energy industry about the role of “hybrid solutions” in the net zero heat debate.

“We’re very much looking at hybrid technology and we’re a very keen supporter in this country of the need for hybrid to be a stepping stone for heat pump solutions,” he says.

“We’ve got such a dependence upon gas in this country. So we are certainly looking at solutions as to how you can take customers on that journey, of having a hybrid as an interim solution.

For example, Hopcroft says EDF has “been trialing solutions where you add on a heat pump to a working gas boiler system to move in the right direction.”

By tying the new technology to something consumers are more used to, Hopcroft says heating emissions can start being whittled down more immediately, without pushing consumers to make changes to their homes which will be daunting for many.

Dan Hopcroft will speak about EDF’s heat decarbonisation at Utility Week Live in Birmingham on 17 May. For more information, click here.