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

National Grid has said it will begin pumping heat from its electricity transformers to heat grids to generate hot water and heat homes in an effort to decarbonise the grid.

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

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

National Grid, which is working on the project with energy company SSE, says the approach could save millions of tons of CO2 each year if rolled out across the transformer network in England and Wales.

Alexander Yanushkevich, Innovation Manager of National Grid, 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 key partner of COP26, and projects like this one are a great example of how the UK, with a system-wide approach, can lead the way in accelerating decarbonisation.”

SSE Group currently operates 18 major heating and cooling networks in the UK and serves approximately 10,500 customers.

It plans to invest around £2bn this year in a mix of low-carbon and other energy projects, weighing further investments ahead of COP26 in Glasgow. SSE Renewables is committed to providing 30 TWh of renewable energy per year by 2030.

Nathan Sanders, managing director at SSE Energy Solutions: “Electrical transformers generate enormous amounts of heat as a by-product when electricity flows through them. At this point, this heat is simply blown directly into the atmosphere and wasted.

“By their very nature, electricity transformers are primarily where people live, work and consume energy, meaning they have the potential to be incredibly valuable community resources if we think a little bit smart.

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

“We see heat networks as an important part of the UK’s future low-carbon energy infrastructure, allowing us to exploit waste heat sources and use them to heat homes and businesses across the country.

Last month MPs warned Parliament that the charging requirements of millions of new electric vehicles expected to hit UK roads in the near future puts them at risk of power cuts to the grid.