Data modelling

This group is working on a detailed zero-carbon model for the West of England region with Wales and West Utilities (WWU), the gas distribution system operator in our region. Over 50% of UK energy consumption is fuelled by gas, with over 80% at peak times.

In recent years the UK energy system has undergone a transformation.
It’s becoming greener and more integrated, with a consequent shift in the interaction between the electricity and gas networks:

Graphic by Wales and West Utilities

The gas distribution companies are at the centre of this transformation. They also need to de-carbonise their energy supply. To plan for this, WWU has developed an integrated energy system simulator called the 2050 Energy Pathfinder.

This “combined heat and electric model” takes real-word data for the heat and power demand of homes and businesses in a particular region, and adds projected new demand such as that for electric vehicles. It then compares this total demand with a simulated range of low-carbon supply options:

The Pathfinder enables any energy scenario, current or future, to be modelled for a town, city, county or country. The results show the costs, carbon impact and any shortfall/surplus in heat and power supply.

WWU has made its Pathfinder model available to the ZW data team and provided introductory seminars.

The ZW team is now adding West of England-specific data to the model, with WWU support, and generating potential future low-carbon scenarios. We are delighted to now make the first version of this available for peer review, and have organised a first session with industry experts, the West of England local authorities, the West of England Combined Authority and the wider energycommunity. Our aim is to create a compelling vision of what’s possible in theWest of England if we really try, and to inspire ambitious and focused action.

Image credit: Buro Happold

The data team is particularly interested in another WWU project – the Freedom Project. This is a 2017 pilot to test the effectiveness of smart hybrid heating systems, and is a cross-sector collaboration between Wales and West Utilities and Western Power Distribution. The project combined an air source heat pump (ASHP) and high-efficiency boiler with smart optimising controls to provide flexible switching between renewable power and green gas. It ran in Bridgend, across 75 properties of all types.

Imperial College has analysed the findings from the Freedom Project, and concluded that this solution could:
– be the lowest cost pathway to fully decarbonise residential heat.
– prevent over-investment in power generation and energy infrastructure capacity.
– divert that money instead into flexible domestic assets for consumers.