Expansion of district heating has key role in long-term objectives

District heating, space heating

The number of homes connected to heat networks must increase 30-fold by 2050 to help meet the UK’s carbon-reduction targets, according to a report on domestic heating for the Electricity Networks Association. At present, just 1% of homes are on a network, and connecting more will reduce carbon emissions while keeping options open during a period of major transition.

All scenarios analysed for the report identified the need for expanding heating networks for their potential in keeping open policy options to decarbonise heat.

An intrinsic benefit of heat networks is that they provide cost and efficiency benefits regardless of the heat sources that are connected to them. Heat can therefore be decarbonised over time, whilst preserving flexibility over energy sources.

The report stresses that whatever route the UK decides to go down, district heating needs to play a ‘massive role’ in reaching the nation’s decarbonisation and energy-security targets.

Greg Barker, the DECC minister responsible for the Government’s heat strategy, commented at the launch of the report. ‘We should see this as a great opportunity for the UK — an opportunity to diversify our sources of heat, make our processes more efficient and our companies more competitive, to develop our towns and cities in sustainable ways that prepare us for a low-carbon future.’

Graham Meek, director of the Combined Heat & Power Association, said, ‘The UK must radically overhaul how heat is delivered to homes and businesses. It is very welcome that the DECC has recognised the flexibility and greater efficiency offered by using heat networks, but the scale of the challenge must not be underestimated.

‘Infrastructure investments such as this require a different form of support to heat and electricity generation, and we need a framework that facilitates the pace of development required.’

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