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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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