Only a quarter of all heat pumps sold are connected to the internet and hardly any heat pumps are prepared for flexible control, as shown by a study carried out on behalf of FAN. As a result, heat pumps are not yet helping to resolve peak pressure on the electricity grid. That is something that should be possible and is necessary, because the use of heat pumps is going to expand enormously. The Flexible power Alliance Network (FAN) foundation, in which 15 energy organisations participate, wants all heat pumps to become smart devices and to become able to be controlled as such. More specifically, a standard interface will have to be created to enable access to heat pumps to provide flexibility.
Sales of heat pumps in the Netherlands are growing rapidly. In 2018, 30,000 households replaced their traditional central boilers by this sustainable heating system. It is apparent that heat pumps will play a major role in heating homes without natural gas or with limited natural gas. What is less well known is that heat pumps can also make an important contribution to the reliability and affordability of our energy supply.
In the next few years, the generation of electricity will increasingly shift from gas and coal-fired power plants to wind and solar farms. This will make the supply of energy less stable. A heat pump can adapt its output to changing supply without any loss of comfort. Hybrid heat pumps offer even more flexibility as they can switch between electricity and gas. At times when electricity prices are low, they can run entirely on electricity and when electricity is scarce they can be fully gas-fired.
This flexibility requires two things: the heat pump must be connected to the internet, either directly or via a smart thermostat, and the heat pump must have an interface that allows flexible control. The need for flexibility will grow, and there will be more and more price incentives that reward flexibility. Heat pumps which enable flexible control will eventually bring extra benefits for the residents of the houses they serve. This is not yet visible, but it will be in due course.
FAN commissioned the Delta-EE consultancy firm tostudy the opportunities of using hybrid and other heat pumps in a sustainable energy system. The results show that flexible control can make an important contribution to our energy supply. The flexibility needed for this is not yet available: only 23 percent of all heat pumps are connected to the internet and hardly any of them can be controlled remotely.
In order to prevent hundreds of thousands of ‘offline’ heat pumps from joining the electricity grid in the foreseeable future, action is needed now, as heat pumps have a service life of at least 15 years. For this reason, new heat pumps should routinely be given a flexibility interface, otherwise the situation will arise that a lot of heat pumps will have been installed that cannot contribute to solving the mismatch between supply and demand, leading to higher peak loads in the electricity grid and higher costs.
Agreements were therefore made in the Dutch National Climate Agreement to introduce this flexibility interface*. The FAN Foundation is active in this respect and will consult with the parties involved as to how this can be put into practice and what kind of measures are needed to achieve this. The new flex monitor, which will be repeated periodically from now on, is an important starting point for this.
The Flexible power Alliance Network (FAN) Foundation promotes open standards for flexibility in the energy system, with the aim of encouraging optimum use of energy flexibility.
* Text in the Dutch Climate Agreement:
“In order to develop a working and market-based deployment of flexibility, there should be an open (European) standard for flexibility for devices, such as solar panels, electric vehicle chargers and heat pumps. The market participants (…), in cooperation with the Dutch national government and grid operators, are investigating how this can be organised.”