London’s Burning (fossil fuels)

Carbon Data Services

The majority of Londoners are burning natural gas to keep their houses warm. What's the difference that heat pumps could make - and what needs to happen to accommodate that change?

The vast majority of Londoners burn natural gas to keep their houses warm. In the context of the UK Government’s anticipated Heat and Buildings Strategy and the IEA’s global roadmap to Net Zero, we look at the opportunity for London to wean itself off fossil fuels for heating. Breaking London into 1,000 areas, we shared the daily heating patterns and network/flexibility requirements across the city and projecting forward to a zero emissions future. Advanced Infrastructure teamed up with the Centre for Net Zero funded by Octopus Energy to give a webinar as part of London Climate Action Week.

Geospatial analysis of heat pump conversion

Distribution Futures Energy Scenarios are used by Distribution Network Operators to forecast the uptake of low carbon technologies such as heat pumps. We visualised these projections for the base-line year of 2021 and extrapolated the uptake of heat pumps over the next ten years until 2031. Factors influencing the uptake of heat pumps wear numerous including policy decisions, new-build construction, and demographic trends.

Half-hourly gas demand by MSOA in London 2021 and half hourly electricity demand by MSOA in 2031

Each heat pump replaces gas demand with electricity demand. This in turn has an impact on the electricity grid. In the visualisations below we show a heatmap of gas demand in 2021 and a comparison heatmap of projected electricity demand in 2031. The brighter the colour the more electricity used in the area. Both heatmaps cover a 24-hour period on the coldest day of the year. This is often called the winter peak and is used by Distribution Network Operators to calculate the minimum capacity of the electricity grid.

How many heat pumps will keep London warm in 2031?

In the analysis we forecast 40,000 heat pumps to be deployed between 2021 and 2031. The visualisation below shows the increasing population of heat pumps as vertical green bars increasing year-on-year.

Impact on the Distribution Grid

Heat Pumps have different energy demand profiles to that of gas. They are also highly dependent on insulation. The majority of households in London have an average insulation measure as EPC rating C. We forecast about 5% of the electricity grid will need some type of intervention in order to serve these new heat pump customers. This could be achieved through better insulation, flexibility services, policy or traditional reinforcement.


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