Greater Manchester Green City Region. Creating a greener, greater city region differently

Government’s ‘central heating for cities’ scheme to bring energy bills down

The Government is consulting on how best to deploy £320 million allocated in the November 2015 Spending Review for investment in heat networks – the Heat Network Investment Project (HNIP).

Dubbed ‘central heating for cities’, heat networks are already used widely in other countries to keep homes and commercial premises warm in winter, with a number of notable examples in the UK – for example at the Olympic Park in London and around the recently redeveloped New Street Station in Birmingham.

And with potential to reduce heating costs by more than 30% for some households, this investment is exciting news for the country’s towns and cities. Heat networks are a key element of the Government’s plans to decarbonise heat.

Heat can be taken from a range of sources, including those not available to be exploited where heat networks are not present such as large heat pumps, Energy from Waste plants and deep geothermal plants.

Heat is delivered to homes and businesses, providing lower cost low carbon energy to connected customers.

Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Amber Rudd, said:

“This is an important next step in developing more home-grown energy, which is a vital part of our plan to ensure long-term energy security and affordable energy for our families and businesses.

“The funding we’re consulting on today will enable these schemes to provide affordable low carbon energy to thousands of homes and businesses across Britain’s towns and cities.”

Greater Manchester welcomes and supports the Government’s ongoing commitment to rolling out heat networks in the UK and has been involved in informal consultation with DECC leading up to the formal launch of the HNIP consultation.

We have also attended several workshops at which DECC have outlined their intentions for what the scheme is designed to do, and how it may deliver its stated aims and objectives.

GM officers are currently working with the GM Local Authorities to develop and position their projects to access this funding, whatever type of financial mechanism is decided upon.

How heat networks work:

A heat network is like “central heating for cities” – instead of individual heaters in each building, a big central heat source (or more than one source) generates heat which is then taken by pipes to a number of connected buildings, with the potential for delivery at district and city scale.

These central heat sources are often Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plants, which means they are small power stations that also capture the heat produced in electricity generation and use it locally.

This new project will be supporting combined heat and power projects, but is also promoting the more innovative use of recovered waste heat from sources such as those described above.

Without a network, it is impossible to re-use this heat and it simply gets dumped into the atmosphere.

Some history on heat networks in the UK:

Heat networks already exist in the UK – city centres in Sheffield, Nottingham, Birmingham, and Southampton already have large heat networks, as do many high rise housing developments.

One of the largest new networks is the Olympic Village heat, power and cooling network in Stratford, East London. 

Mapping work undertaken on behalf of the GMCA in 2014 identified 54 potential networks which could be delivered across Greater Manchester, and a number of these have benefitted from Central Government funding to undertake more detailed feasibility work.

The most advanced of these is the Civic Quarter Heat Network which is currently in procurement – proposed connections include key buildings around St Peter’s Square, including the Town Hall, Manchester Central and Midland Hotel.

GM officers are currently undertaking work to develop a pipeline of projects across Manchester, Salford, Trafford, Bury, Tameside and Bolton.

Despite this, we have far fewer networks than other European countries: extensive networks in France, Germany, and Scandinavian countries deliver cheap and lower carbon heat to thousands of buildings connected to networks, with multiple and varied sources of heat going into the pipes. For example, there is a ring of deep geothermal heating around Paris and 90% of homes in Copenhagen are on a network.

Interesting facts:

• Heating is the largest single user of energy, and emitter of greenhouse gases. It is also a major component of most people’s energy bills.
• Heating accounts for around 45% of UK energy use: predominantly for space heating (in homes and offices), heating water, cooking and industrial processes. 42% of this heating is for non-domestic use.
• Heat production accounts for around 30% of UK carbon emissions (most heating comes from burning natural gas, with some electric heating and oil heating. All these add to carbon emissions). It is likely to be more cost effective to tackle heating emissions than emissions in some other sectors like heavy industry and transport.
• 30% heat cost savings from a report by AECOM (2015) Assessment of the Costs, Performance, and Characteristics of UK Heat Networks. Compares estimated heat price for a small flat using a gas boiler (10.24p/kWh) with average heat price from gas-supplied heat networks studied (6.43p/kWh) – pp. 35-36

Extracts taken from Department of Energy & Climate Change press release 29 June 2016.


Flickr image 'London cityscape' by user Davide D'Amico.

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