The looming target to meet net-zero by 2050 means there is an increasing pressure to decarbonise our energy systems. According to BEIS, heat in buildings is one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK, accounting for 23% of total UK emissions. If we apply the right skills and technology, as part of a collaborative approach, we will be able to minimise these emissions, if not completely eradicate them with a shift in how we produce energy.
BEIS have found that heat networks currently provide approximately 2% of UK heat demand. The Climate Change Committee estimated in 2015 that with Government support, they could provide 18% of heat demand by 2050. It’s imperative we decarbonise how we heat our buildings in a low-cost way to meet our carbon targets, which heat networks will be able to support if we continue to invest in them nationwide.
Heat networks supply heat from a central source to consumers, via a network of underground pipes carrying hot water. They can cover a large area or even an entire city or be fairly local supplying a small cluster of buildings (GOV, 2021). Heat networks are incredibly efficient and will contribute greatly towards reducing carbon emissions as a result from our energy consumption.
BEIS definition of a Heat Network Zone: “a designated area within which heat networks are the lowest cost, low carbon solution for decarbonising heating for an area. Within a zone, certain types of building must connect to their local heat network in a given timeframe.”
A recent consultation has been released by BEIS, calling industry and experts to respond to roll out of heat network zoning across the UK. By authorising specific areas to connect to heat networks as their main source of energy it will allow local-level energy planning that could help areas better prepare for the transition to net zero, reduce overall costs, mitigate risks, and seize local opportunities (BEIS, 2021).
Benefits of heat networks include:
· Cost effective, low carbon heat
· Utilises waste heat, highly efficient
· New infrastructure as a catalyst for growth and jobs
· Lower consumer bills than traditional gas boilers
· Flexible energy system that is more reliable
Introducing official zoning for heat networks across the UK will utilise the most opportune areas for these networks, providing a viable solution for decarbonising heat in the most cost-effective and energy efficient areas.