Heat networks

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The government needs to set out a strengthened policy framework if its ambition of installing 600,000 heat pumps a year is to be achieved, industry voices have warned. Eon chief executive Michael Lewis said the target will be a “massive but necessary step” towards ending reliance on gas for heating.
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Vattenfall and Midlothian Council have formed a 50:50 joint venture to build heat networks across the area. The first project to delivered under the partnership will be a £20 million network supplying the new town of Shawfair on the outskirts of Edinburgh.
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Town-scale trials are needed to end the energy industry’s “total paralysis” on the decarbonisation of heating, the founder of Greencoat Capital has argued. While conceding that the costs may run into the “hundreds of millions of pounds”, managing director Richard Nourse said the bill would be “pretty skinny” when compared to the amounts that must ultimately be spent to address the issue.
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Energy Networks Association’s Open Networks Project, which has been engaging with industry to power towards a smarter, low-carbon energy system, has reached some key milestones, says ENA's head of innovation, Randolph Brazier
Comment
Jonathan Westley, of Experian, says utilites have the power to help reduce the number of people excluded from the financial system.
Opinion

Latest in Heat networks

Consumers' choices must be limited to a degree if the UK is to achieve its net zero ambitions, a senior industry figure has argued. Speaking during a panel session on the decarbonisation at Utility Week Live on Tuesday (17 May), Vattenfall head of partnerships Noah Nkonge sought to qualify suggestions that consumers should have free choice over the type of heating they use, warning: “If everybody gets to choose every little thing then things like heat networks are really difficult to deliver.”
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The energy minister has hinted that the government is considering a cap on heat network customers’ bills, which Parliament was told have risen by up to 700% recently. However, opposition MPs have called for more immediate relief from spiralling bills for those customers using communal heating systems.
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A new trade body which aims to promote the use of thermal storage in buildings has launched. Founded by Tom Lowe, former head of industry operations at Bulb, Thermal Storage UK has three founding members developing products to electrify space heating and hot water.
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The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has launched the £288 million Green Heat Network Fund, which will support the development of low-carbon heat networks out to 2025. The fund is the successor to the Heat Network Investment Project, which has provided more than £250 million of funding to 20 heat network schemes across England and Wales since 2018.
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Consumer protection body Heat Trust has called on the government to apply the price cap to the heat network market as soaring gas costs see bills rise by 700%. With commercial gas prices massively increasing as a result of the energy crisis, the consumer body has warned that urgent action is needed to protect the half a million homes that are currently on communal and district heating networks.
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To achieve their ambitious decarbonisation targets, local authorities must get to grips with a complex and evolving energy system. But, as UK100 chief executive Polly Billington argues, the energy sector must also do its part in seeking to understand the needs and the capabilities of local government. She talks to Lucinda Dann about how the sector is doing so far and why local area energy planning must happen with councils, rather than to them.
Interviews
The government has confirmed plans for the regulation of the heat network market, including appointing Ofgem as the regulator and spreading the resulting costs across all energy consumers. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy set out its intended arrangements in its response to a consultation on the market framework for heat networks.
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Western Power Distribution’s (WPD) latest Innovation Showcase offered the firm’s innovation team a chance to provide updates and insight into its recent work before the turn of the year. Here, innovation engineer Ryan Huxtable runs though the highlights.
Comment
National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) has launched a new programme to build a digital replica of the entire energy system in Great Britain. The ESO said the Virtual Energy System will allow it to generate new ideas and insights, model solutions and predict scenarios.
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The Heat and Buildings Strategy has finally emerged, alongside a slew of other green policies. In this free-to-download report for the heat market, Utility Week examines the key pledges and timescales enshrined in this much-anticipated blueprint.
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Three possible pathways towards the decarbonisation of the economy have been set out in the Net Zero Strategy. The strategy noted that the three scenarios – high electrification, high resource and high innovation – are only intended to be illustrative, representing a range of practical ways in which net zero could be delivered rather than the mostly likely or preferred solutions.
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