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There has been so much activity on the district energy front this year in London that it pays to look over these once again ahead of Heat13.

At the start of year (well - strictly speaking mid-December 2012...), the London Borough of Islington formally inaugurated the Bunhill Heat & Power scheme. An innovative council-led initiative, which brought forward the development of a 2 MW gas-fired Combined Heat and Power (CHP) engine connected to a kilometre of new district heating network, supplying heat to more than 700 local homes and two leisure facilities.  In these times of austerity, this was a bold development by Islington, which is both owned and operated by the council, providing affordable heat and power to local residents as well as generating income by the sale of electricity to the grid. More please!


Around the same time, and a little less than five minutes walk away from the Bunhill site, Hackney Homes inaugurated the Shoreditch Heat Network. This was a major renovation of an old and tired district heating network, involving the addition of a new gas-fired CHP and thermal store. 


Following close to a year's work, the GLA launched a draft of its District Heating Manual for London in February. This is a comprehensive guide to developing district heating in the capital and is a further innovation by London government following the creation of the London Heat Map. Outline planning guidelines for Croydon’s major town centre regeneration were also approved this month, which include plans for a significant area wide district heating network.


March saw the Government set out actions to help deliver low carbon heating as part of its national Heat Strategy, which included the creation of a new Heat Networks Delivery Unit (HNDU). The unit will work with local authorities providing specialist expertise on district energy, emulating in large part what the GLA's own Decentralised Energy Project Delivery Unit (DEPDU) has been doing in London since 2009.


In April press reports emerged of E.ON's involvement in the evolving district energy network around the Greenwich Peninsula. There was also considerable media coverage on the highly innovative ‘fatberg’ CHP system planned to operate out of Beckton gasworks in Newham – which the developers are calling a Combined Heat and Intelligent Power’ (CHiP) plant! 


July saw the publication of a detailed district heating feasibility study for the massive Vauxhall Nine Elms Battersea (VNEB) development, which will involve the construction of a significant new district energy network across the site, but will hopefully also re-open the mothballed heat pipeline under the Thames which used to provide heat from Battersea Power Station to the Pimlico District Heating scheme!


Also released in July was a £5.7m tender by Camden for the proposed decentralised energy network, which had previously received planning approval by the council, connecting four residential estates to a major new state of the art medical research facility, all along Euston Road.


Also over the summer, a review by the GLA on the Implementation of the London Plan energy policies indicated that, over the past three years, environmental planning requirements in London have led to the approval of  the connection of 110,000 new dwellings in forthcoming developments to district heating networks, anticipated to be built out over the coming years: 53,000 of those were approved in 2012 alone (the latest figures). 

The GLA published in September a highly innovative study looking at London's secondary heat resource which found that “by using heat pumps to deliver heat at 70°C, the total heat that could be delivered from secondary sources in London is of the order of 71 TWh/yr which is more than the city’s total estimated heat demand of 66 TWh/yr in 2010”.

Further details were announced this month of the imminent launch of  London's first 'energy from waste' district heating scheme using heat from the SELCHP energy from waste plant to nearby estates in Southwark. About time!

In October the Elephant & Castle redevelopment, where district energy will play a huge role in helping bring about what the developers say will be “some of the most sustainable, energy efficient and occupier-friendly places to live in Britain” was recognised by the C40Cities initiative with ‘Climate Positive’ status.

And coming right up to date, and also full circle by returning to colleagues at Islington, last week saw the announcement that the council would be using waste heat from the tube – and heat captured from electrical substations – to be delivered through the Bunhill district energy network to heat hundreds of nearby homes.

In addition to all of the above, details are also emerging of other major district energy schemes being explored in London, which include those on the South Bank, in Wembley, and Lewisham, as well as the Upper Lea Valley and the extension from the Olympic Park district heating scheme. The Mayor's Decentralised Energy programme is supporting many of these projects, and others, which in total are worth close to £70m investment.

It’s great to see that this action being taken forward by local authorities and London government is now being recognised by national government. DECC is finally setting out a strategy for the wider deployment of heat networks, and their recent announcement establishing a £6m heat network fund to provide expertise to local authorities is to be applauded and should be supported by the industry.

There’s clearly a huge amount of activity going on and 2014 will hopefully build on this to further London’s district heating renaissance, helping set the capital on a lower carbon pathway. 


 

 Syed is the Director of www.energyforlondon.org 

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So at last, we have a decision on nuclear.  There will be some that think this is excellent and others the contrary.  But what does it mean for district heating?  Does it confirm the view that as far as DECC is concerned the future for heating remains an all-electric one with a heat pump in every home?

Well, the problem with current forms of low carbon generation is that they are either inflexible or intermittent and the more we have, the greater the need for flexibility.  Today flexibility is mostly provided by coal and oil plant but with much of this gone by 2020, it will need to come from elsewhere.  We’ll still have our pumped storage and interconnectors and of course there’ll be plenty of CCGTs to prop up the system.  Then there is demand side participation which should have a major role to play. However, its commercialisation into a viable and an attractive option that offers value to customers has some way to go.  To make matters worse heat demand is very peaky with large variations throughout the year and within day.  This is in itself will increase the need for flexibility.

So what can district heating do?  Well firstly it offers huge potential for flexibility. Tanks the size of our old gasometers, a feature of most towns and cities until a few years ago, can store vast quantities of water very cheaply.  With heating provided by very large electric heat pumps, for example, heat load be can be rapidly adjusted to support the system as well as smoothing out variations in heat demand.  Thermal CHP plant can also provide flexibility by varying heat production thereby increasing or reducing electricity production.  And finally, in the future with a well- developed heat network serving a sizeable load, there is no reason why nuclear could not also provide heat as well as electricity, although I doubt it features prominently in EDF Energy’s plans at present!

So is nuclear the end for heat networks?  I don’t think so. It may actually help.


 

Robert Sansom is a Researcher at Imperial College London funded by UK Energy Research Centre.

Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Claire Wych
    Claire Wych says #
    The GLA's recent study - London's Zero Carbon Energy Resource found that total available heat for capture from all sources across
  • Robert Sansom
    Robert Sansom says #
    Completely agree. I heard somewhere that in London there is enough wasted (I prefer to add the d) heat to meet all of London's he
  • Rob Raine
    Rob Raine says #
    Heat networks, as you say, can help provide flexibility in managing the future energy system. Also important is the way in which h
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