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  Posted by: electime      8th August 2018

Fitting new homes with a three-phase electricity supply should become standard practice for network operators and the construction industry, the renewable energy and clean tech industry stated today.

Supported by Western Power Distribution, the UK’s largest Distribution Network Operator (DNO) who runs the local electricity network in south-west England, South Wales, and the Midlands, the two are making the case, in a new report, that doing so is key to facilitating greater home EV charging, solar deployment, and renewable heat installation in the coming decades.

The current model in the UK is for housebuilders and network operators to run three ‘phases,’ within the mains cables, down a street but to only connect each house to one of the phases. In other countries, such as the Netherlands and others on the continent, all three phases connect to each house allowing loads from different appliances, such as washing machines and lights, to be split across the phases. Regulations governing the activities of DNOs currently compel them to install lowest-cost solutions to the consumer. This constrains them from installing marginally higher cost three-phase connections which would better prepare homes for clean energy deployment.

This current method of installing a single phase electricity supply has been the norm since before World War II.

The paper “The feasibility, costs and benefits of three phase power supplies in new homes”(available here) outlines that for new homes with three-phase supplies installed, the total load of the house with an EV charger and a heat pump can be distributed over 3 phases, giving each home greater capacity.

While acknowledging that existing home charges are sufficient for most households and vehicles at present, this would allow for some consumers to charge at a more rapid rate, over 7kW, empowering them for a future when electric cars have longer-range, higher capacity batteries. Three-phase supplies would additionally facilitate greater solar PV deployment.

Western Power Distribution is currently conducting trials of three-phase connections in new homes, such as Parc Eirin Energy Positive Homes in Wales, profiled in the report, to be able to establish more definite numbers on costs and benefits.

The Government in the Road to Zero strategy committed to consulting on compelling new homes to have charge points installed, and this policy could be incorporated in such discussions.

Commenting on the launch of the paper, Dr Nina Skorupska CBE, Chief Executive at the Renewable Energy Association said:

“The built environment is a major source of carbon emissions. If we are serious about delivering on our ambitions to reduce energy bills, meet our carbon targets, and deliver on our Industrial Strategy aims, we should ensure that they have adequate electrical connections. Three phase power supplies in new homes can facilitate a more rapid deployment of renewable heat systems, greater uptake in rooftop solar PV, and greater choice in charging your electric vehicle.

“Additional costs to housebuilders are already low for a three-phase connection compared to a single-phase in new homes. If the Government compelled the network operators to fit new homes in this way, the cost would fall even lower.”

Mark Dale, Innovation and Low Carbon Engineer at Western Power Distribution said:

“The distribution networks in the UK are in the middle of a major transition. Not only are we expecting the homes of the future to provide us with the energy to run as they do now, but we are also looking for them to fuel our cars and provide flexibility services to others.

“Traditionally DNO networks have been designed for distributing electricity from large remote generation sites to our homes. With the connection of more and more distributed generation on our networks we need to become more flexible in the way we design and operate our networks. The current policy of installing single-phase supplies in new homes has been the norm since before the Second World War and should be reviewed.

“Three phase connections will allow for more solar PV and battery storage, and well as for faster home EV charging. It will give customers and network operators the flexibility required to match demand and generation as efficiently as possible by utilising smart meter tariffs whilst, at the same time, reducing network losses.”