UCL Energy Institute


Fully funded PhD studentship quantifying barriers to the adoption of heat pumps

20 December 2022

Applications are now open for a proposed studentship in Quantifying barriers to the adoption of heat pumps to decarbonise heating, as part of 60 studentships to be awarded by the UCL EPSRC DTP.

Photograph of a heat pump against a brick wall

About the project

Project title: Quantifying barriers to the adoption of heat pumps to decarbonise heating
Project supervisors: Professor Paul DoddsDr Eoghan McKennaProfessor Tadj Oreszczyn
Project ID: 2228bd1158 (You will need this ID for your application)

Heat decarbonisation scenario studies for residential and non-residential buildings tend to focus on cost and carbon savings. Yet a range of other factors are important, for example the size, performance, reliability and noise of the heating system, and also the building size and the quality of the fabric. This PhD will focus on improving assumptions relating to heat pumps, which are forecast to have a substantial role providing heat in the UK.

The project will analyse energy consumption, energy performance and other information collected by the Smart Energy Research Lab (SERL) and the Energy Demand Observatory and Laboratory (EDOL) to estimate heat pump sizing and performance for a range of residential housing archetypes. There is also an opportunity to link this information to housing stock information from the 3-D Stock Lab to further understand the building fabric. This information will then be combined with an expert elicitation with industry professionals to quantify the relative importance of non-cost barriers in the UK for heat pumps. Finally, the insights will be used to estimate the extent to which heat pumps can be deployed in each UK housing archetype. This evidence will help to inform the UK Government’s decision on whether to repurpose the UK gas networks, which they expect to make in 2026.

Background: SERL is a £6m EPSRC investment to enable researchers to use high-resolution data from UK smart meters.  It has collected data from 13,000 households, including some with heat pumps, and has Energy Performance Certificates that provide building fabric, floor area and other useful information. EDOL is a new £7m investment, also led by UCL, that is monitoring the use of individual appliances in homes.  The 3-D Stock Lab is producing a digital twin of the entire British housing stock, accounting for buildings with multiple uses on different floors.

About the Supervisory Team

Professor Paul Dodds will be the principal supervisor. Paul specialises in engineering and technoeconomic modelling. He created and leads the development of the UK TIMES energy system model in partnership with the UK Government, who have adopted it as their principal in-house energy system model. He has been PI of 14 research projects, including three large UKRI projects. Dodds is a Co-I of a number of major research centres including the UK Energy Research Centre. He has supervised five PhD students to completion.

Dr Eoghan McKenna will be the subsidiary supervisor.  Eoghan is a Senior Research Fellow in the UCL Energy Institute.  He has contributed to the creation of the Smart Energy Research Lab (SERL) since the outset in 2018 and is a Research Co-Investigator on the new Energy Demand Observatory and Laboratory (EDOL). Eoghan is an expert in energy data analysis and machine learning. He currently supervises two PhD students.

Professor Tadj Oreszczyn will join the thesis committee. Tadj is PI of SERL and also leads the EDOL. He is an internationally-renowned authority on energy and buildings with over 200 research publications. He has supervised numerous PhD students to successful conclusions.

Key information

Funder: UCL ESPRC DTP studentship
Value: Fees, Stipend (at least £20,668 per year), Research Training Support Grant
Duration: Up to 4 years (thesis to be submitted within funded period)
Eligible Fee Status: Home, International (EPSRC caps the total number of funded International fee status students across UCL for this award at 30%)
Study Mode: Full or Part time (at least 50% FTE) [Note: Part time is not available to International students]
Primary Selection Criteria: Academic merit
Project ID: 2228bd1158 (You will need this ID for your application)
Application Deadline: 12:00 on 26 January 2023

How to apply

This PhD Studentship topic is one of 19 proposed by The Bartlett School of Environment, Energy and Resources to a competition for approximately 60 studentships that will be awarded across UCL as part of the UCL EPSRC DTP. Prospective students are welcome to apply for up to 5 potential studentships - see the full list of projects from our department and the UCL project database for a comprehensive list across the university. The 60 successful proposals will be chosen following applicant interviews.

Before applying, all applicants must read the full eligibility criteria and application guidance on the UCL EPSRC DTP website. There is a 3-part application process, with a deadline of the 26 January 2023 to complete the third part of the application.