Heat networks – which are widely used in places like Scandinavia – could soon become a reality here in the UK as well, with the government now backing plans for a huge expansion of such schemes around the country.
Figures obtained by the Daily Telegraph show that over one-third of local councils across England and Wales are now looking into these initiatives, planning to introduce heat networks that transport heat to hundreds of homes and businesses from a single source.
At the moment, approximately four out of five homes in the UK are heated using gas boilers, but if the country is to achieve its climate change targets by the year 2050, these will have to be replaced – so homeowners would perhaps be wise to start looking into this now so they can be prepared for any changes if and when they happen.
A funding pot was set up back in 2013 and the government hopes that this will help to support additional networks that make use of heat that’s produced as a by-product of industrial or commercial processes.
For example, a scheme is now being developed in Islington in London that will use the heat generated from the Northern Line on the Tube network. And over in Stoke-on-Trent, renewable geothermal heat is going to be tapped from deep below ground, while the council also has plans underway to try and recycle heat from pottery kilns.
Head of energy and environment at think-tank Policy Exchange Richard Howard did note, however, that there are several challenges that need to be addressed in order for these networks to be a success.
“There are real issues to address in terms of consumer protection, choice and pricing. Heat networks generally lock customers in on very long-term contracts, which can be 15-20 years,” he was quoted by the news source as saying.
That said, district heating (which you may also hear heat networks referred to as) can be advantageous to business and homeowners because it means that both use of heat and transportation is more efficient. The costs of energy generation are also lowered, fuel flexibility is enabled and more energy generation resources can be used in collaboration in order to meet heating demands.
According to the Committee on Climate Change, in 2014 UK emissions were 35 per cent below the 1990 levels, while emissions were also seen to have dropped an additional three per cent in 2015. What this means is that the first carbon budget has been met successfully and the UK is now on track to outperform its second and third carbon budgets. However, it is not on track to meet its fourth, which covers the years from 2023-2027.
In order to meet future carbon budgets and the country’s 80 per cent target for the year 2050, domestic emissions will have to be reduced by at least three per cent each year.
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