Glen Dimplex: Net-Zero Smart Systems and Flexibility Project of the Year 

At a glance:
Who: Glen Dimplex, Midland Heart, and Centrica
What: Smart storage heaters for Demand Side Response (DSR)
When: Ongoing
Where: Midlands, UK
Why: To improve access to clean energy and heating for housing

The challenge 

As the UK’s grid decarbonises and more renewables come on line greater flexibility will be required to ensure households use energy more efficiently and at times where demand can be matched. Engagement and data-related challenges will be prevalent in addressing this. 

The solution 

A collaboration between Glen Dimplex, Midland Heart, and Centrica on the UK’s largest trial using smart storage heaters for Demand Side Response (DSR) to align with broader decarbonisation objectives by increasing renewable energy use, improving energy efficiency, and providing grid services. 

How it works 

Leveraging high heat retention smart storage heaters, this project can assist with balancing mechanisms for the National Grid. In turn, this can help increase renewable generation, improve energy efficiency, and provide grid services without compromising consumer comfort. 

The project’s delivery and creativity showcased an innovative approach to address the energy trilemma while engaging residents and delivering tangible benefits. The project leveraged existing infrastructure, contributing to the net-zero carbon economy without requiring significant consumer effort or compromising comfort. 

Storage heaters were used as heat batteries, storing renewable energy during times of abundance and pausing charging during periods of high demand. 

The installation of 600 smart storage heaters across eight sites enabled demand side response activities to take place which optimised energy usage and reduced grid reliance on fossil fuels through the addition of 1MW of flexible load. 

Glen Dimplex’s hardware and software updates, along with Centrica’s installation of communication infrastructure, help roll out the project in under two months and facilitated the integration and functioning of the smart heaters. Smart meters were also used to provide data on usage and validate the amount of electricity demand avoided. 

The integration of smart technologies and remote monitoring capabilities through the Dimplex app allowed for efficient responses to heater issues in communal spaces and residents’ homes, enhancing comfort and well-being. 

In order for the project to be considered a success it would need to successfully engage with social housing residents to offer and explain how flexibility works and reward those who participate. This approached resulted in impressive uptake from vulnerable homes and has the potential to scale up across millions of homes. 

Midland Heart led on customer engagement efforts. Engaging local trusted residents helped communicate the benefits of the project, and new supply chains and technical solutions were developed to include more residents’ heaters due to high demand.  

One notable challenge faced was tenants switching heaters off at the wall. To address this, the organisations used expertise across their relevant teams from technical to tenant engagement. This allowed effective support of tenants in using their heaters efficiently, reducing their bills and ensuring warmth. 

As a result, nearly 85% of residents participated in the project. 

The project also overcame challenges by obtaining industry rule derogation and addressing potential negative impacts on residents through effective customer engagement. 

On the back of this projects findings, British Gas will be launching a first of its kind, DSR Storage Heater tariff, to incentivise off-peak charging. 

The results 

Specific targets were set to benchmark project success, including the installation of 600 smart storage heaters (equivalent to a 1MW load), achieving nearly 85% resident participation on some sites, and measuring avoided electricity demand using smart meter and internal metering data 

The judges said: 

This entry was our winner because it targets an area that is difficult to decarbonise, heating, by integrating storage heaters and smart technologies for social housing residents. This is an innovative flexibility project that could be scalable across the country to deliver economic and carbon savings. 

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