An in-depth look at recent analysis of the UK heat network market finds strong scope for growth, yet take-up is limited at present in the broader formation of national decarbonisation plans
An estimated two per cent of UK buildings are currently linked to heat networks, despite the potential of such technology to support national decarbonisation aims.
Findings from analysts Cornwall Insight have concluded that 17 per cent of heat demand in UK homes and 24 per cent of public sector buildings and non-industrial business could be met by 2050 through networked systems in line with a push to eliminate carbon emissions fully.
According to the group, looking to existing solutions and business models in place across continental Europe may highlight some areas for greater adoption of heat networks.
Cornwall Insight said that the flexibility of the technology, particularly for regional or city use that can support different source technologies, would be a major advantage in future planning. For example, the heat input can come from a power station, energy from waste facilities, biomass/biogas boilers, combined heat and power plants, fuel cells, geothermal sources, heat pumps, solar thermal arrays and electric boilers.
The launch this autumn of the £320m Heat Networks Investment Project (HNIP) is expected to be the main driver for uptake of network heat solutions in England and Wales. The time aim is to leverage £1bn of private sector funding to support the commercialisation and construction of heat networks.
According to the report, such projects may have a key part to play for each new innovative heat source being added to an expanding generation stock.
However, it adds that there is much to be learnt from Europe. This would include opportunities through subsidies and other new routes to market.
Local solutions are also expected to be vital to expand interest and understanding as is the case in key European markets. The findings said that policy and regulatory instruments need to be carefully considered to encourage investment in innovative projects.
This article is part of a wider feature appearing on page 24 of the October edition of H&V News. A digital edition of the magazine can be read for free here.