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Decentralisation and devolution have been two of the policy buzzwords of recent years, especially in the energy sector. Local models of generation, supply and delivery have gained a huge amount of traction, from community owned solar PV farms to a growing number of district heating networks to cooperative wind farms. But what about the human face of a decentralised energy system? Who’s in charge? What skills and competencies do they need? Who holds them accountable?

We asked Emma Bridge, Chief Executive of Community Energy England, and Julian Packer, Low Carbon Investment Director at Greater Manchester Combined Authority, for their views.


Q: Where does leadership come from in a decentralised energy system?

Emma Bridge: The whole premise of a decentralised energy system is that leadership comes from the local area. To be truly effective, this needs to be a mixture of local authorities, local enterprise partnerships, local businesses and communities. Community energy has a vital role to play here. It doesn’t just enable energy to be generated at a local level, it encourages us as individuals to take greater control over how our energy is generated. It also reconnects communities with their relationship with energy, enabling them to get involved and engaged with energy efficiency and process of demand management. You need all these facets to be brought together for decentralised energy to work effectively.

Julian Packer: [At a national level], there is a clear political commitment to district heating from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) as evidenced by the Heat Network Delivery Unit (HNDU) and the Heat Networks Investment Project (HNIP). This is a real positive. Local authorities are, potentially, the key driver for the wider adoption of decentralised energy. In many local authorities, there is a strong political will to move to a low carbon future in which decentralised energy features strongly.

Q: So, do we have the leaders that we need, in the right places?

Emma Bridge: I think we still have some work to do to make sure that we have the right leaders in the right places. Energy has been so removed from day to day life that it will take a while for that connection and the wider benefits of decentralised energy to be grasped across the board. There are some fantastic examples of this starting to take place though, and I don’t think it will be long until these start to be replicated across the country.

Julian Packer: Political will [at a local level] is often not matched by executive action in terms of implementing supportive robust planning (a notable exception being London with its London Plan). Often, this is in large part due to the fear of setting planning requirements which are unattractive to developers, an understandable concern given the increasingly severe budgetary pressures being experienced by Local Authorities and their not wishing to lose a development to a nearby authority with less stringent requirements.

Q: What skills and competencies need to be developed (and among which types of people) to ensure the success of the decentralised energy revolution?

Julian Packer: Consultants need to improve the quality of the work they undertake; they lack “coal face experience”. There needs to be a standardised approach to financial modelling of schemes – too many bespoke models are produced. Likewise, streamlined procurement and contractual frameworks are required – too many projects “reinvent the wheel”. Local authorities need more embedded expertise in order to be effective, informed clients.

Q: How do we ensure that the customer is protected in a highly localised energy system?

Emma Bridge: By ensuring that they are engaged in the process. Community energy is a great example of communities “doing energy” rather than energy being done to them. Their knowledge of local people and ability to engage traditionally harder to reach consumers and, where appropriate, turn them into prosumers in unparalleled. Regulation also needs to start to put the consumers first.

Julian Packer: Obviously the Heat Trust provides protection for the private domestic customers of heat networks. Commercial customers are normally protected through contractual provisions, but again some standardisation and sharing of experience would be invaluable. The question we keep encountering is more about providing choice rather than protection. For example, housing developers will insist on providing a gas supply in order to be able to offer gas hobs! Another example: commercial developers still require the installation of gas boilers as this is insisted on by institutional investors.

 Q: What models for local energy are interesting to you at the moment? Who’s doing interesting things?

Julian Packer: Local authority owned, licensed energy supply companies as a catalyst for decentralised energy. Robin Hood Energy and Bristol Energy Company are interesting examples to follow. [Models for] local authority investment into district heating projects are an active interest too, as they provide local authorities with an opportunity to convert capital into long term revenue.

Emma Bridge: Cornwall Council is starting to really explore the role of local energy through its devolution deal. The Energy Local pilot in Wales is developing new systems so that communities can benefit from pooling and using their own generation directly through new relationships with suppliers, smart meters and technology. Plymouth Energy Community is doing excellent work linking generation with addressing fuel poverty. And in the heat world, Kingston Heights in London is using the River Thames to provide renewable heating and hot water to 137 apartments and a hotel. I think we’ll see a lot of innovative and exciting models coming through over the next couple of years with strong ties to the local community.


We will be exploring the place of decentralised energy on the local, national and global stages at this year’s Heat Conference.  The conference is hosted by the ADE and the Energy Institute and sponsored by Engie.

Join us on Wednesday 23 November at the Grand Connaught Rooms in London and make your voice heard. We have discounted tickets available for local authorities, others in the public sector, charities and SMEs. Find out more and book your place here.




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b2ap3_thumbnail_Heat-Trust-Logo-Plain.pngLast year’s Heat Conference saw the launch of Heat Trust, a stakeholder-led initiative to help consumers have confidence in the service they receive from district heating network operators.

Approaching one year on, Heat Trust now covers 45 heat networks with over 25,000 customers.

We caught up with Bindi Patel, Director of Heat Trust, to see how things have moved on in the past year:


Q: What’s been the reaction from the sector?

Really positive!  There is a growing recognition that, in order for the sector to grow, sector-wide standards are needed so that customers are protected and have confidence that their heating and hot water service is comparable to the rest of the energy market. Equivalence in the service offered to customers is important, particularly given that customers are unable to shop around.  If the market is going to benefit from public funding to reduce investment risk, it should be able to meet minimum customer service and protection standards.


Q: And what’s been the reaction from customers?

Around 40 customers have made use of the Ombudsman service so far, which is fantastic. It shows that customers are actively making use of the service that Heat Trust has put in place. Customers can, for the first time, refer their dispute to an independent third party who can look at both sides and provide recommendations based on the facts presented.


Q: How has the Trust helped to improve what the sector offers?


  • Putting customers first: Heat Trust has helped highlight the need to improve performance and to give customers a service that is equivalent to any other customer in the energy market. In particular, it has also highlighted to heat suppliers the need to tailor their service to their customers, for example, customers who need additional support or are vulnerable.
  • Helps put industry on the path towards better regulation: This is a sector that has very little, if any, standardisation in the service it provides customers. Heat Trust provides a framework towards industry standardisation that is common in other regulated market sectors.
  • Improving the sector’s reputation: By helping suppliers to adopt consistent service standards and providing access to the independent Energy Ombudsman, Heat Trust is helping to protect the reputation of the sector as well as raising the profile of district heating.
  • Increasing transparency in the sector: this is one of our key objectives and we are achieving it in a number of ways: by reporting on the volume and type of complaints that heat networks registered with Heat Trust receive; by requiring independent audits; and by providing a heat cost calculator for customers. Transparency will play a key role in building trust in the sector and improving the sector’s reputation.


Q: You mentioned the new heat cost calculator. Tell us a little about that.

It’s always been hard for customers to get a sense of the costs of district heating compared to an alternative.

The Heat Cost Calculator is the first publicly available online tool developed to provide customers living on district heat networks, with an indication of what it would cost to heat a similar sized property using an individual gas boiler.

The Calculator takes the amount of heat a customer uses (or an estimate) and factors in boiler efficiency, repair and maintenance costs, and the cost to replace a boiler at the end of its lifetime.

We are now looking to develop the Calculator further to provide a comparison with electric heating, as this is the most likely alternative for the majority of district heating network customers.

Customers deserve to know what costs go into their bills and we hope the Heat Cost Calculator will encourage industry to ensure they are communicating in a clear and transparent way.


Q: What are your plans for the next year?

We’ve made an excellent start by recruiting over 40 heat networks in our first year of operation. Next year, we will be developing the scheme further, particularly for heat networks where heat supplier agreements are not the norm. Our aim is to expand so that any heat network can register with Heat Trust if they are able to meet the standards set by the Scheme.


Q: What are the challenges you’ll be facing?

So far, we have focused on schemes where there is a heat supplier agreement between the heat supplier and the customers – it ensures there is a clear document that sets out the terms under which the heat supplier is providing heating and hot water to customers served by the heat network.

However, a lot of existing heat networks do not use heat supply agreements but specify provision of heating and hot water in a leasehold or tenancy arrangement. We will be looking at how Heat Trust can develop to include these schemes. Work is under way and we hope to report on progress soon.


Q: How can people get involved with what you’re doing?

We are keen to engage with as many stakeholders as possible. You can get in touch by email at info@heattrust.org or find us at industry events and conferences – including this year’s Heat Conference (Wednesday 23 November, London). We’re always keen to hear views and – of course – to encourage more heat network providers to sign up to the Heat Trust and give their customers the confidence they need.

Our thanks to Bindi Patel, Director, Heat Trust, congratulations on a busy first year and best of luck for the second!

If you would like to know more about Heat Trust or to access the Heat Cost Calculator, please visit www.heattrust.org.

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VitalThe Association for Decentralised Energy Awards 2016 will be presented on Wednesday 23 November at the Natural History Museum, London.

The awards showcase innovation, best practice and achievement across combined heat and power, district heating and demand response and energy services, providing an opportunity for organisations and professionals to celebrate success and collective attainment.

The Awards Judges met in September 2016 and shortlisted the following entries:

Industrial Project of the Year - sponsored by Ricardo Energy and Environment Ricardo

  • Edina UK - Welsh Power
  • ENER-G - Muntons Anaerobic Digestion Plant, Stowmarket
  • Estover Energy - Speyside Renewable Energy Partnership
  • Open Energi - Aggregate Industries
  • Viridor – Runcorn Energy from Waste

Commercial / Public Sector Project of the Year

  • Bosch Commercial and Industrial / BUPA UK – Caring for the Environment
  • Edina – Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, Glasgow
  • Edina – University of Warwick
  • ENER-G – Places for People Leisure
  • Engie – Coventry District Energy Company
  • ESP Energy – Portmeirion Biomass District Heating Scheme
  • Eurosite Power – Kingfisher Leisure Centre, Sudbury
  • London Borough of Southwark / Veolia – SELCHP

Homes and Communities Project of the Year

  • British Gas – BGreen, Oldham
  • E.ON Energy Solutions – Cranbrook and Skypark, Exeter
  • SSE – Elmsbrook, North West Bicester

Consultancy Project of the Year - sponsored by Clarke Energy Clarke Energy

  • Arup, partnering with Lux Nova Partners, Mazars and Willis Towers Watson - Heat Network Detailed Project Development Resource: Guidance on Strategic and Commercial Case
  • Carbon Alternatives – Hinksey Heat, Oxford
  • FairHeat – Octavia Housing, Elizabeth House
  • TUV SUD Wallace Whittle – Trafalgar Place, Southwark, London

Integrated Energy Award

  • Edina / E.ON – Citigen, London
  • Edina / E.ON – Myatt’s Fields, London
  • Vital Energi – Cheltenham Hospital

Innovation Award

  • ENER-G Ultra Low NOx CHP range
  • PassivSystems – Network Optimisation Through Intelligent Control Execution (NOTICE)
  • REStore – Flexpond
  • Switch2 Energy – Sheffield City Council
  • Vital Efficienci – VitalECS (Energy Controls Solution)

Customer Engagement Award

  • Clarke Energy / Barts Health NHS Trust – Pink Power
  • Edina – Welsh Power
  • Eurosite Power – Haverhill Leisure Centre
  • Switch2 Energy – Sheffield City Council

EdinaThe Awards will be presented on Wednesday 23 November at a gala dinner at the Natural History Museum in London. A Lifetime Achievement Award – sponsored by Edina - and an overall Project of the Year Award will also be presented.

You can book tickets for the ADE Awards Dinner here.


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The Association for Decentralised Energy (ADE) and Vital Energi are delighted to announce that this year’s ADE Awards Dinner will be held at the Natural History Museum in London, marking the tenth anniversary of the Museum’s trigeneration scheme.

The ADE Awards celebrate the best in district heating, combined heat and power and demand side management. The Awards showcase real projects delivering energy cost savings, economic growth and carbon reductions to businesses and communities across the country.

“The Natural History Museum is a great place to celebrate the achievements of decentralised energy,” said Tim Rotheray, Director of the ADE. “Last year alone the Museum saved just under £1million on its energy bills through its partnership with Vital Energi and millions of visitors have benefited as a result.”

Vital Energi, sponsors of this year’s ADE Awards Dinner, are celebrating ten years working with the Natural History Museum. Its pioneering trigeneration scheme delivers heating, cooling and power to the museum, ensuring that priceless exhibits are kept in optimum conditions and that visitors have a great and comfortable experience.

Gary Fielding, Joint Managing Director at Vital Energi, commented, “We are honoured to sponsor this year’s ADE Awards. They do a fantastic job of spotlighting the outstanding work being done to reduce carbon emissions and generate more affordable energy. Hosting the awards at the Natural History Museum is a great way to celebrate the tenth anniversary of their trigeneration scheme and successful approach of achieving long term carbon and financial savings.”

Past ADE Award winners have ranged from district heating networks providing affordable warmth to low incomes households, to industrial energy centres reducing energy costs and boosting productivity, to innovative control systems and leading edge software ensuring that our energy system works as efficiently and effectively as possible.

The 2016 ADE Awards are now open for entries. The deadline for entries is Thursday 30 June. Full details of the awards and how to enter can be found at http://heatconference.co.uk/index.php/awards.

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Posted by on in Heat 2014

by Liz Warren, SE2

There has been much talk recently about devolution: greater powers for nations and increased budgetary control and scope for cities and counties too. But what are the implications of devolution for heat?


Let’s consider the story of Scotland: in June 2015, the Scottish Government published its Heat Policy Statement, which aims to remove almost all carbon from the heat system by 2050. Figures announced in October 2015 show that renewable heat generation has increased by 36% in just one year, with almost 10,000 micro renewable heat systems up and running.

Nationally driven policy and programmes have certainly helped. The Home Renewables Loan Scheme, the Low Carbon Infrastructure Transition Programme and support from Resource Efficiency Scotland are all driven by the Scottish Government. If anything, UK policy uncertainty is putting the brakes on further development.

Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing, quoted in Holyrood Magazine, said: “We are committed in helping support households and business across become more energy efficient and use more low carbon and renewable heat sources.

“There is however continuing uncertainty about the Renewable Heat Incentive, which the UK Government have not commitment to beyond March 2016. We will continue to press for commitment to the long term sustainability of the RHI beyond next year to provide confidence for funders and stimulate investment in renewable heat technologies.”

Elsewhere, devolution discussions carry on apace. In Greater Manchester, district heating is already very much on the agenda, with several authorities undertaking development work supported by the national Heat Network Delivery Unit, an example of a national programme supporting heat in a devolved future world.  The devolution of health budgets to Greater Manchester could provide an interesting link into the rollout of affordable and lower carbon heat sources particularly to fuel poor households or those more at risk from living in cold homes.

Cornwall is at the vanguard of county-level devolution discussions. Alastair Mumford of Regen SW told us:

“Overall devolution should enable Cornwall to develop initiatives better fitting with local resources and issues, developing synergies between council and government priorities. The devolution package states agreement by government and the council to investigate how local and neighbourhood plans can support local ownership models, including heat networks.  The deal references a ‘community heat pilot’ and the council has an excellent track record in supporting community renewable electricity.

“The deal should help the council in setting up a Low Carbon Enterprise Zone which aspires to develop geothermal, an important priority for the area, and other renewable technologies.  The scheme could see new build and retrofit heat networks as well as attracting in industries with high heat demands.”

Devolution is not the same as divorce: Mumford believes that while devolution helps councils to shape policies that best fit their geography, there is also opportunity for closer engagement with Government Departments. And there are things which are best driven at the national scale. Says Mumford:

“Change in basic infrastructure such as the way we generate heat does require an overall national framework to drive down costs and risks. If we end up with regions pushing forward with initiatives that are specific to their area and don’t join up, they won’t create an overall market that the supply chain can react to and invest in. Whilst devolution is a positive opportunity for renewable heat, therefore, we do not think government can simply wash its hands of the need to provide that framework.”

As Scotland and Cornwall are both demonstrating, a clear ambition and policy statement can make all the different. Alastair Mumford explains:

“Devolution can dramatically improve low carbon heat in an area but it needs to go hand-in-hand with a detailed strategy.  This strategy needs to be developed with the community and reflect best practice within and outside the region. The strategy needs to enable the supply chain to develop its skills and capacity.”

Greater Manchester meanwhile has carried out extensive citywide heat mapping and through its Energy Plan has identified how changes in energy generation and supply can contribute to the City-Region’s ambition to reduce CO2 emissions by 48% by 2020 compared to 1990.

The future of heat is local – district heating networks and local renewable heat generation are starting to feature more and more in our energy mix – though they have a long way to go! Devolution can help place the power to deliver change in the hands of local communities, though it will be interesting to see how this is balanced with national enthusiasm for developing fracking and our ongoing commitments to a robust and interconnected gas network.

How will all the pieces of the puzzle fit together? Join the debate at the Heat Conference on Wednesday 25 November to have your say. You can book your place at www.heatconference.co.uk.



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By Professor Jim Skea CBE FEI, President – Energy Institute, Research Council’s UK Energy Strategy Fellow and Professor of Sustainable Energy at the Centre for Environmental Policy, Imperial College

 Energy decision-making is widely varied. There are mega-decisions about nuclear reactors, gigawatt-scale offshore wind farms and interconnectors that criss-cross the North Sea. Then there are the literally millions of decisions, each modest in itself, which collectively shape energy needs and markets. Policymakers and headline writers love the big stuff. Nevertheless, it is the more humble things which will shape out the energy future and which really challenge policymakers.

“Heat” has become a catch-all term to describe all forms of energy use that are not electricity and not transport – and that’s a very large share of energy demand. There is a tendency to describe heat as a “sector”. Winston Churchill once famously said that India was no more a country than the equator was. Well India is certainly a country now but, in my view, heat is no more a sector than a kettle of boiling water is. And talking about heat markets is also bizarre. There may be some district heating schemes where heat is priced and traded but, for the moment, heat largely stays within the premises where it is generated and used.

It is also odd that the energy labelled “heat” in commercial buildings is more often used to keep us cool. Hence, the not entirely facetious title of this blog – we could really do with a catchy term, which covers the energy needed to keep us comfortable, whether it involves nudging temperatures up or down. “Heat” makes it sound as though policy is all DECC’s job. Something round “buildings” or “built environment” would make it clear that other government departments, notably Communities and Local Government who look after building standards have a rather important role to play.  Suggestions welcome!

One of the consequences of regarding heat as a sector on par with real sectors, such as electricity, is the temptation to mimic policy mechanisms that work well where there are functioning markets, c.f. the complexity of the Green Deal. Smaller consumers do not make decisions with the same degree of sophistication as finance officers in major utility companies – and nor should they. If we want to promote energy efficiency and renewable heat then simple, understandable rules and incentives are needed. I was talking to a Swede yesterday who pointed out that Scandinavians value simplicity in all things from furniture design to energy policy. They look with bemusement at the elaborate mechanisms that the UK uses to shape electricity markets and energy consumption patterns.

So where does this rather grumpy rant take us? First, I think we need a holistic approach to keeping people comfortable in indoor environments. It is basically about minimising energy use and maximising inputs from environmentally sustainable energy sources. Second, a joined-up vision of where we are going would help. Top-down views of UK low carbon energy futures suggest a big role for heat pumps for example – but it is fair to say many energy professionals remain sceptical.  Every time an old boiler is replaced by a modern combi boiler we lose the hot water tank – the cheapest form of energy storage for buildings – that would be needed to get heat pumps installed. Are we locking ourselves out of a low carbon future in the longer-term for more incremental gains in the short term? Finally, we need rules and incentives that match the needs of households and businesses and the way they make decisions. When DECC presses control-alt-delete on energy policy after the Spending Review is concluded, let’s hope “heat” is one of the areas that gets the attention it deserves.


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We asked Lesley Rudd, Policy and Public Affairs Manager of the Sustainable Energy Association, for her views on the policy landscape for renewable heat. The Sustainable Energy Association (SEA) is a member based industry body offering innovative policy solutions that link up building-level technologies and the wider energy system to achieve a low carbon, secure energy future for the UK, benefits for UK consumers, and commercial growth for businesses working in the sector.

 Over the last few months - as disappointing announcements relating to the low carbon sector have been made - we have had calls from concerned members asking for advice.  Policies causing immediate impact on business include:

  • The end of further funding to the Green Deal Finance company
  • The scrapping of the Zero Carbon Homes scheme
  • DECC consulting on ending Renewable Obligation support for solar farms
  • DECC consulting on huge reductions in Feed in Tariff payments and huge reductions in the overall budget.

These announcements have caused considerable uncertainty in the market place and are having an immediate impact on business, with both investors and potential customers getting cold feet (excuse the pun)!

The proposed considerable reductions in the feed-in-tariff for solar PV is impacting businesses in the low carbon heating sector as  there is a knock-on effect which pervades other business activities and other businesses.  Customers are unwilling to close orders because those announcements already made have created a pessimistic outlook for them, pending new policies being announced on heat policy and energy efficiency (both of which Amber Rudd has indicated will not be concluded until after the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement).

Businesses are now facing the  very real prospect that customers, with whom they  have been in contractual discussions for some time, are considering pulling out as they are concerned that the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme (RHI) will close before contracts are in place, leaving their  investment facing fiscal uncertainty.

The SEA supports the Government’s aim to ensure value for money for the taxpayer and avoid cost overruns in its policies.  However, we believe that the cuts proposed to the FIT regime and rumoured to the RHI will be counterproductive for the Government’s long term economic plan.  We agree that subsides should be phased out over time and should only be in place for a period necessary to allow new industries to compete effectively.  However, there is a real risk that if the investment in a permanently lower future cost base for the provision of our country’s energy is removed before the transition to competitiveness is complete, not only will we lock the country in to a higher energy cost than necessary for the long term, but we will also render stranded the good work and public funds that have been invested so far. The RHI is a national investment which will lead to a more cost effective heating market tomorrow. Removal or significant cuts to the RHI now will hinder our efforts to reduce costs and negate much of the Government and industry’s investment to date.

We believe bringing industry and Government together to find a solution is the way forward.  To this end, the SEA has carried out a significant amount of modelling to assess the value for money delivered by government policies such as the RHI compared to other alternatives and to identify ways in which the scheme could be improved to cost less and deliver more.  

Much has already been achieved by industry and Government working together to develop a market and a supply chain for renewable products - so let’s finish the job. As the market develops, volumes increase, costs and emissions reduce, customers get cheaper energy and the UK gets a sustainable industry with lower costs locked in for the future, thereby permanently reducing future needs for imported fossil fuels, and providing the most cost-effective way of meeting the Conservative manifesto commitment to meet the carbon budgets set under the Climate Change Act.  A win-win!

 Our thanks to Lesley Rudd, Policy and Public Affairs Manager at the Sustainable Energy Association.


 You can have your say on renewable heat at the Heat Conference on Wednesday 25 November - click here to book your place.

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Posted by on in Heat 2015

By Casey Cole, Managing Director of Guru Systems

At the beginning of this year we were given the green light to conduct feasibility studies into technology to improve the energy efficiency of district heat networks.

Nine months on and we have successfully moved beyond proposals and concepts, and in May were awarded a share of a £7 million fund to put our plans into action by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).

It was a pivotal moment for the company and the team.

Our core team has worked for many years in the decentralised energy sector and we were champing at the bit to put our plans into action.

As a company we have worked with landlords and developers across the UK to ensure they can monitor their networks and bill tenants correctly for the energy they use. For tenants, the Guru Hub works as a pay as you go and energy monitoring device, whereas for developers it provides a way to measure incoming energy, heat produced and used across the networks – as well as being able to see any drops in efficiency.

Our DECC project takes our diagnostic capabilities to the next level.

Heat network operators have generally suffered from a lack of data about how their networks are performing. And in those cases where they’ve managed to extract data from their systems, it’s often been difficult to interpret. As a result, good practice in the UK heat market hasn’t evolved as quickly as it should.

We’re attempting to radically speed up the development of the market by building tools for operators to understand and analyse their own energy performance data and, importantly, share that data with each other.

Using innovative machine learning algorithms to analyse the large data sets that come from heat networks, our systems will put the power back in the hands of operators and lower the cost of tenants’ bills thanks to the improvements that can then be made in the networks’ efficiency.

Early results from the four heat networks where we’re trialling the technology have been hugely positive. Working with operators, we’ve used the outputs of our system to identify cost effective changes that are significantly improving network performance. By the end of the project, we expect to have reduced input fuel use on the trial sites by between 33 and 51 percent. This can equate to an average saving of £179 per home per year.

If this technology was rolled out to heat networks across the UK we could save £400 million in reduced energy costs in 10 years.

These figures are astounding and give an indication of just how much value there is to be had in improving performance of heat networks.

Not only are we looking to save tenants money, we are also working with leading developers and affordable housing providers to help them anonymously share key performance data – including return temperatures and peak loads – while complying with the Data Protection Act and our own strict data sharing policies.

It was important for us, as part of this project, to encourage a flow of information. Not just between operators, but with suppliers and consultants as well.

For example, many designers of heat networks never see their systems in action and have no idea of how well (or poorly!) they perform in real life. For this reason, we believe it’s just as important to share data with network designers as it is to share with operators. Otherwise, they don’t learn from real world outcomes and improve design on their next project.

It’s an exciting time for the innovation of heat networks and we are just one of eight schemes receiving this funding from DECC

This year in particular has been a landmark one for the sector, with CIBSE and the ADE publishing a Code of Practice which will ensure minimum standards on new networks. But standards aren’t enough on their own.

The old maxim that you can’t improve what you don’t measure is especially true in the heat sector. The evolution of the UK heat market will depend on the effective extraction, analysis and sharing of data by heat network operators and other stakeholders and we hope to do our part in making this happen.


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Last year, the innovative combined heat and power and ground source heat pump system installed at Notre Dame Primary School was celebrated at the ADE's annual awards dinner.  One year on, we spoke to Bob McNair from Glasgow City Council to find out more about how this innovative system has benefitted the school's community.

In 2013, Notre Dame Primary School and Ellie Nursery installed five mini combined heat and power (CHP) units, to work in tandem with a ground source heat pump (GSHP) and thermal storage. This past year, the ground source heat pumps were at 50% of the heating and hot water capacity, with the CHPs running for around 4500 hours.

Having a flexible system and using complimentary technologies have been and will be a real benefit to the school in the years to come.

"Over the last two years occupancy hours have increased by over 50%, and the CHP system has been able to facilitate these changes with ease....With small scale CHP there is no need to modulate the engine output, the system runs in response to the heating controls without any issues."

The ability of the CHPs and the GSHPs to work in tandem was critical to the success of the installation.

"Last winter all five CHP units were readjusted to run continuously up to 23hours per day to ensure a consistent supply of heat and hot water. Now that RHI metering is in place, the school can reduce the heat input from the CHPs by 40% and in turn increase the use of the GSHP. This small change in how the heat and hot water is produced means the school will benefit more from the Renewable Heat Incentive without changing the level of comfort."

Generating its own heat and power gives the school a certain level of future proofing against rising gas and electricity prices.

"When gas prices increase, in the years to come, this school need not rely on the “standby” gas fuelled boilers installed in the school. It can generate is own heat and electrical power without using either boilers or GSHPs.  Conversely, when the renewable level of electricity production reaches a peak, the GSHPs can contribute more heat and hot water than the CHPs."  

Carbon emissions are also an important metric for the school.

"Despite the change in occupancy hours the carbon emissions from the school have been below that of other well managed schools in Glasgow. With the changes made for next year the CO2 levels at Notre Dame Primary School and Ellie Nursery will be far lower.”

Finally, the school community love the new refurbished old school and new 5 storey extension and are proud of the low carbon system!

"The kids and parents love the school with its renewable system. The school is Victorian and even has the same cast iron radiators, albeit refurbished, that their great, great, great grandparents saw in 1894."


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Posted by on in Heat 2015

District heating is making a comeback! These heating systems are winning support from the Government, landlords and planners alike as we look for energy-efficient alternatives to conventional heating systems. Casey Cole, Managing Director at Guru Systems, explains how modern-day technology is helping to reignite enthusiasm for district heat.

District heat is enjoying a renaissance.

Having been all but confined to history after the demise of the ‘streets in the sky’ building programme of the 60s and 70s, many are now turning to modern day district heat networks as a long-term solution to providing low-carbon energy to our housing stock.

It is more than 50 years since the concept was first introduced in the UK, and the mistakes of the past have been well documented.

Today, however, the landscape couldn’t be more different.

New technology, with the support of Government financing, means that district heat is now a reliable source of energy that is increasingly easy to monitor and manage.  

The Department of Energy and Climate Change estimates that 14% of UK heat demand could be cost effectively met by heat networks by 2030, with the figure rising to 43% by 2050. While in the capital, the Mayor of London has set out plans for 25 per cent of heat and power used in London to be generated through the use of localised decentralised energy systems by 2025.

Planners are similarly championing its use in new housing developments, particularly in London, as they promote an “eco-first” approach to planning permission.  

Robin Feeley, Director of L&Q Energy, which manages 2,000 homes on 33 district heat networks across London and the south east, said: “In London in particular, district heat is no longer a choice, it is a necessity and as developers, housing association are having to adapt and fast.

“The technology developed to monitor these networks has come on leaps and bounds in the last few years and in many ways housing associations are leading the way in implementing these advancements and pioneering new technology, including smart meters.”

The 21st century district heat schemes benefits have been widely publicised, as energy is distributed from a central hub, rather than from boilers in individual properties, heat networks are more energy efficient than conventional heating systems and allow landlords to supply low cost heat to their tenants.

The challenges

Heat networks are notoriously difficult to administer, especially as landlords are not allowed to make a profit from the energy they sell to their tenants. If they charge too much they face legal challenges, if they charge too little they could lose money every time a tenant turns on their heating.

In most cases landlords will set tariffs based on the expected performance of the system – not on real world data that shows how well the network is actually working. This means that if initial assumptions are inaccurate, or there is a sudden dip in efficiency through a fault in the network, costs for landlord could spiral rapidly.

At Guru, we have seen cases of a 100-home scheme losing £65k in 14 months, simply because their tariff had assumed a much better efficiency than was achieved in practice.

The landlord billed their residents every month according to aggregate consumption, but they had not had access to performance data and so did not know their tariff was wrong.

The technology

With landlords having to take on the unfamiliar role of energy provider – and facing a raft of technical and legal ramifications – housing professionals are mixing traditional ideas with new technology to bring district heat into the modern age.

Robin Feeley continues: “We spent five years refining our district heat networks to the point where we have a produced a technical specification for our networks. At first, like I am sure many housing associations were, we relied heavily on contractors to specify what we needed.

“Since first installing district heat networks, technology has transformed the way we deliver and monitor the energy we provide to our tenants, to such an extent that we are now revisiting earlier developments to install smart meters where previously we had old-fashioned prepayment meters.”

The majority of landlords have no way of knowing how well their networks are running as the data is collected monthly, rather than being logged minute-by-minute. While many recognise the need to provide cost-effective heating to their residents, the majority have no way of reviewing efficiencies on their networks.

Although older heat meters provide essential data, most of it remains unused due to antiquated data collection systems. Some operators of district heat networks rely on customers to provide readings or send an operative with a radio receiver to collect readings from each meter, while others are using the 20-year-old technology to transmit data on usage from individual homes.

These basic methods mean that if landlords are calculating their tariffs incorrectly or networks are not running efficiently, they can suffer huge financial losses in the months between meter readings.

Today housing associations can monitor key information on how the network is performing – from the central plant right through to each individual’s home – meaning landlords can quickly identify any issues in the network long before costs mount up.

By delivering real-time information on energy usage and payments, smart meters allow registered providers to identify and focus resources on vulnerable residents who are in fuel poverty and in immediate need of support.

The technology to manage and monitor heat networks is constantly advancing. Guru Systems recently won funding from the Department of Energy and Climate Change to develop an algorithm to evaluate the efficiency of schemes.

Using innovative algorithms that build on techniques developed for Big Data applications, the technology will be able to recognise patterns in performance data and identify the likely source of any inefficiency on networks.

As well as identifying the problem, the new system will also propose solutions ranked by cost-effectiveness, while machine learning will ensure the algorithm’s accuracy continues to improve the more data it analyses.

Guru Systems has seen its technology installed on 35 schemes across the UK for landlords including, L&Q, Affinity Sutton, Octavia Housing, and Peabody Trust, and private developers, such as Berkeley and Telford Homes.

Casey Cole is Managing Director of Guru Systems, which provides smart payment and energy-efficiency technology systems for local energy networks 

 This feature was originally published in the April edition of Housing Association and Building Maintenance Magazine. To read more great articles, visit www.habmonline.co.uk

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By Ian Marchant FEI, President, Energy Institute

The simplest questions are usually the best. By many measures, heating accounts for around half our total energy use. The cost of that energy has gone up significantly in recent years. Less than 5% of our heating is from renewable sources.

We all know the problem, how to get the first two of these measures down and the third one up. So here's where the simple question comes. What is the one thing we should focus on?

It would be tempting to use this opportunity to lobby on the political environment and support mechanisms or to wax lyrically on new technologies but I don't believe that either of these important areas are the one big thing. So what is it? I believe it’s Behaviour. 

Let me explain. The reason why we don't insulate our homes or set our thermostats and time clocks correctly is behavioural or to put in bluntly, we can't be bothered.  The reason why district heating is so hard to get going in the UK is because we all want our own boilers in the corner of our house. The reason that biomethane struggles to make inroads is that we don't regard organic waste as a valuable fuel and just throw it away. The reason we don't install new technology such as heat pumps is because the old ways are easier. 

We don't need more engineers and lobbyists taking part in the heat debate we need behavioural economists, anthropologists, psychologists and socialists to work out how to get us off our backsides and actually do something.


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We’re delighted that Matthew Pencharz, Senior Advisor on Environment and Energy to Mayor of London Boris Johnson, will be joining us at Heat 2014. We took some time to catch up with him ahead of the event:

How did London go about placing heat as a specific issue in the energy policy debate?

London’s high use of public transport means that a great proportion of our CO2 emissions come from buildings; nearly 80 per cent, in fact. With expected decarbonisation of the electricity grid, the greatest impact in CO2 emissions is to be found in addressing buildings’ energy efficiency and the use of fossil fuels in heating.

Retrofitting these buildings is a priority for London. To maximise CO2 emissions reductions in the most cost-effective ways, the Mayor’s approach is to retrofit these buildings with energy efficiency and energy supply measures through programmes such as RE:NEW, RE:FIT and the decentralised energy programme of work.

Increasing concerns over the affordability and security of London’s energy supply have focussed attention on delivering an energy future for London with a triple bottom line: to be more secure, more affordable and lower carbon. Our research shows that placing heat at the centre will deliver the greatest benefits.

London has 32 Boroughs and the Corporation of London, a lot of stakeholders and Westminster watching on. How do you manage the dynamics between citywide policy and delivery, the national policy landscape and local delivery?

A major concern is the fall in national electricity generating capacity; we have an alarming lack of energy capacity headroom and therefore an unacceptably high risk of brownouts. This capacity crunch has been further exacerbated by the unplanned outages of a number of power stations and the intended closure of others.

The Mayor is doing all he can to increase the level of local generation that will take the stress off upstream generation, including initiatives such as Licence Lite (LL). LL is a junior electricity supply licence aimed at overcoming the cost and market barriers to distributed generators wanting to sell their power output at rates reflecting its true retail value. With Ofgem’s oversight, we intend to pilot the new licence that will allow local generators a better price for their electricity, which should help decentralised generators proliferate, further reducing stress on the national power system. He is also working hard to deliver smart systems in London to manage demand better and incentivise consumers – both commercial and domestic – to avoid the hours of peak demand.

London’s electricity distribution infrastructure has served the capital well. However, electricity demand is now increasing 1-4 per cent a year and a large number of the capital’s substations are, at times, at or near their maximum capacity. The current regulations severely limit strategic investment in electricity distribution infrastructure ahead of an immediate request for a connection. The Mayor is working with developers, the Government and Ofgem to investigate how the current regulations could be reformed to allow a much more strategic approach to investment in electricity distribution infrastructure while protecting consumers from any risk.

A lot has happened to deliver efficient, affordable, sustainable heat in London over recent years. How’s the market looking? 

The Mayor has a small development team that directs consultancy support to help others develop and deliver their larger-scale decentralised energy projects. The team has developed a DE project pipeline valued at over £300m, almost a third of which is expected to be brought to market by summer next year. The projects are characterised by their technical variety and disparate stakeholders. This points to the important role of the specialist energy development team in helping identify and structure projects with the stakeholders. Examples include

  • Supporting the London Borough of Camden to capture 2 MWth of unused heat from a new gas-turbine CHP installation at the Royal Free Hospital to heat their housing stock at Gospel Oak utilising a new heat network.
  • Supporting the London Boroughs of Enfield, Haringey and Waltham Forest establish a North London area-wide heat network. Enfield has established the Lee Valley Heat Network company that will initiate the start of the project based on heat from the Edmonton energy from waste project.
  • Supporting developers in the Vauxhall Nine Elms Battersea Opportunity Area to approach the ESCO market to invest in interconnecting heat network and provide heat supply services centred on the New US Embassy.

There’s some great work under way, but what are the ongoing challenges for London in terms of heat?

If London is to achieve its target of supplying a quarter of London’s energy from decentralised sources by 2025, then the supply of heat from CHP, waste heat and natural sources by means of heat networks will have an important role to play.

London’s complicated governance structure and the multiplicity of stakeholders mean that it is challenging for an individual private sector player to drive forward large-scale DE projects. We intend to use the planning, convening and influencing power of London’s public authorities, combined with expert support from the GLA, to drive forward market competitive projects, resulting in an energy supply for London which is more affordable, secure and lower carbon.

Finally, what are the key plans for the future? What should the heat industry know about what’s coming in London?

London is set to exceed its record level of population within months and risks losing its premier position unless a major programme of infrastructure investment is put in place.

The London Infrastructure Plan 2050 is the first attempt to set out the full range of infrastructure requirements for the capital over the next half century, during which time the population of London is forecast to increase by 37 per cent to more than 11 million people.

The plan builds on the Mayor’s campaign for greater fiscal devolution to cities allowing for investment in much-needed local infrastructure and boosting the whole of the UK’s economy. The Mayor believes that the model for investment set out in the plan could also be suitable for all of these cities, and others, providing a blueprint for how they might invest in locally-decided priority infrastructure needs.

Thanks to Matthew Pencharz for his contribution here. You can hear more from Matthew – particularly about the dynamics of cities operating in a national and local landscape – at Heat 2014 on Wednesday 5 November. To book your place now, visit www.heatconference.co.uk

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By Casey Cole, Guru Systems

Casey Cole is Managing Director of Guru Systems. He blogs on low carbon at carbonlimited.co.uk and tweets on @carbonltd.


Metering and billing (M&B) is often seen as a necessary but rather dull cog in the district heating machine. For many heat network operators, heat metering is nothing more than a tool for ensuring customers are billed for the heat they consume. But it’s far more important than that. Heat metering can be used to monitor network efficiency, which can spell life or death for district heating schemes. Unfortunately, getting this performance data out of heat meters isn’t always easy.

On most district heating networks, an internal or external M&B team will collect aggregate consumption data once a month and use it to generate bills. Aggregate consumption figures can be useful, but heat meters can tell us a lot more. In fact, they can tell us almost everything we need to know about the technical performance of district heating schemes, including flow rates and flow and return temperatures in each flat, on key network branches and within plant rooms. Armed with this information, network operators can pinpoint problems and inefficiencies, and ensure networks deliver “lean heat.”

Many landlords and energy services companies (ESCOs) already recognise the importance of high efficiencies and lean heat. For landlords, lean heat means providing value for money, especially to the fuel poor. For commercial ESCOs, it means delivering profit margins while maintaining reasonable prices. But without data on system performance neither aim can be achieved. Without good data, network operators are flying blind, with the potential for even small schemes to lose staggering amounts of money. A 100-home scheme we assisted recently had managed to lose £65k in 14 months, simply because their tariff had assumed a much better efficiency than was achieved in practice. They’d billed their residents every month according to aggregate consumption, but they hadn’t had access to performance data and so didn’t know their tariff was wrong.

While heat meters can provide essential data, most of it stays locked up in the meter because of antiquated data collection systems. Some operators rely on customers to provide their own meter readings or they send an operative to walk round sites with a radio receiver to collect readings from each meter. Most schemes use an M-bus system to collect data. Based on a 20-year old German standard, M-bus networks are designed for periodically collecting aggregate consumption data over a 2-wire bus. While these various methods have the benefit of simplicity, they’re not up to the job of providing real-time performance data to DH operators.

More intelligent methods of data collection are needed. One method is to connect ordinary heat meters to networked smart meters, as we’ve done with Octavia Housing and Insite Energy in Wembley. While these smart meters are usually part of a pay-as-you-go utility system for residents, the fact that they’re networked means we can use them to extract real-time performance data from the heat meters. This transforms the ordinary heat meters from unintelligent counters, simply totting up aggregate consumption, into the foundation of a hugely valuable performance monitoring system.

By also connecting the smart metering system to the heat and gas meters in the plant room, we can get a complete picture of plant and network efficiency. The operator can immediately see whether the network is providing lean heat, not just as monthly aggregates but hourly across the days, weeks and seasons. Moreover when technicians make changes, such as closing bypasses or tweaking controls, the effects on network efficiency are clearly visible. This allows operators to achieve higher efficiencies and, crucially, maintain them.

In the past, heat metering has been little more than a tool used by the M&B team to generate bills. But heat meters can do a lot more for us. By connecting heat meters to a more modern network, we can obtain invaluable performance data and ensure that we are delivering lean heat. 

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It has long been apparent that local authorities have a central role to play in the delivery of heat networks. But for many years, challenges around resources, capacity and funding meant that a lot of authorities simply couldn’t get started. The introduction of DECC’s Heat Networks Delivery Unit in September 2013 was supposed to change all that. We talked to John Saunders, Commercial Specialist within the Unit, about the difference it’s making, and what local authorities can expect when they call on the Unit for help.

It’s been a busy year for the Unit. What have you achieved so far?
In just a year, we have issued three rounds of funding, worth £7.1m, and we’re now working with 95 local authorities to support 130 heat network projects.

So what does your support enable authorities to do?
Simply put, the grant funding means that local authorities can buy in the expertise that they need.

But it’s the one-to-one support we provide that often makes the biggest difference. We can help people who may never have worked on heat networks before to become more intelligent clients, planning and structuring their projects so that the chances of success are increased. We can also help officers to clearly understand and communicate what they need from the experts that they commission.

Can you tell us about some of the projects you’re supporting?
There has clearly been a great deal of interest in our support and this has not been limited by geographies. HNDU has engaged with Local Authorities right the way across the country. An important aspect to highlight is that funding has not just been focused on the large urban areas; we’re working with some exciting schemes in rural parts of the country too.

A number of these projects are looking to take advantage of innovative heat sources. For example, Islington are looking at waste heat from an electricity substation, Birmingham from its canals, Allerdale from minewater, several from geothermal and Cardiff and Exeter from waste operations.

Whilst each project is different there are some aspects of the project which come up in all project. Questions around ownership, security of supply and guaranteed heat-take are normal. The idea of unbundling generation, transmission and distribution has been talked about for some time and remains attractive in theory. The creation of competition at the wholesale and retail end of a network is appealing and is a possible way both to future-proof in line with coming regulation and ensure that heat customers receive the best service at the most competitive price.

You’ve mentioned some innovative technologies there. What about more traditional technologies like gas?
We get asked about the role of gas CHP in heat networks a lot. Clearly a dependency on gas is less desirable than a lower carbon input fuel like those I’ve mentioned. But the HNDU has taken a technology agnostic stance when considering projects. A gas CHP can be the most viable way to get a network constructed and with a plant life of 15-20 years, there will inevitably be a time when the best available technology will come online.

So, how have local authorities responded to the challenge?
One of the most interest aspects of the work is seeing local authorities assess the role they wish to play in these projects. Some want to be strategic planners, some will be customers, but an increasing number are interested in taking an investment role in the network.

Many of the supported projects are at an early development stage but it is still worthwhile beginning to understand the appetite the Council has for certain roles and the benefits it hopes to see. Many of these benefits are common across projects; carbon savings, energy security, addressing fuel poverty and economic regeneration and it is important to understand which of these can be delivered through private, public or joint ownership and investment.

How is the industry dealing with all of this demand for expertise? It’s still a relatively small sector in the UK.
There has been concern from stakeholders – and from DECC – that the funding we’re providing might have a negative impact on the market, pushing up prices. So far, what we’re seeing is that increased demand has actually made the initial project stages more competitive. Some of this is undoubtedly due to the market taking a longer term view of projects – securing early stage engagement with the hope of increasing the chances of feasibility and design work later on. But there have also been a number of new entrants into the market, whether from overseas, through diversification or through the creation of new business partnerships.

So what next for HNDU and the heat networks sector?
We’re continuing to support our existing group of local authorities as they move through a range of activities, from high level heat mapping and masterplanning to detailed financial and contractual work. No matter what stage of project development a local authority is embarking upon, the aim for us remains the same: to support them to identify the most technically and economically viable heat networks and to help progress the development of these networks.

We’re not resting on our laurels. Round 4 of funding opens in October for six weeks and is another opportunity for DECC support of projects. Our team of HNDU technical and commercial specialists are happy to support and review draft applications before the Round 4 deadline.

We are hosting a series of roadshows for local authorities who might be interested in applying for funding – we’ll be in London on 6 October, Cambridge on 10 October and Leeds on 21 October. Local authorities can find out more and book a place here.

Thanks to John Saunders for telling us more about the work of the HNDU. We recommend heading to one of their workshops or coming to meet them at Heat 2014 on 5 November.


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Energy, and in particular electrical power, is closely linked in all countries to political power and the history of the UK energy industry, especially the electricity industry, is closely tied with social and political history.  Mass deployment of electricity in the UK – which took what had been a luxury for a few and turned it into an every day necessity for all – took from the 1920s to the 1960s.  In that period the dominant models were centralization and large-scale generation which fitted the economics of electricity as well as the over-riding social model and politics of the time – characterized by: “big is best”, “government knows best” and “take what you are given”.  Since the 1970s, and accelerating in the last few decades, we have been living through simultaneous social and technological revolutions that are fundamentally changing the foundations on which the energy industry was built.  In 1980 the futurist Alvin Toffler coined the phrase “prosumers” and although it is now sometimes used in different ways the original meaning was “people who blurred the line between consuming and producing by actively collaborating to improve or design the goods and services of the marketplace, transforming it and their roles as consumers”.  Given this phrase was coined well before the internet it was prescient, on-line developments such as Wikipedia are examples of prosuming and with technologies such as 3D printing we are now seeing examples of prosuming in physical products emerge.

Many of the perceived problems of the energy system in the UK actually result from separation of producer and consumer – the “big 6” suppliers, the National Grid, the DNOs – are all remote (even if your pension fund owns shares in some of them).  Energy generation and use are remote – you just flick a switch and expect something to happen – you get a bill – you deal with a call centre that nowadays may be in another continent.  The whole system is remote. 

It wasn’t always that way.  Prior to the nationalized British Electricity Authority being established in 1948 there were over 600 electricity companies, most of them owned by local councils.  With the growing interest in community energy and municipally owned energy companies, as well as innovations in technology around small scale distributed generation, interconnection through the internet and innovations in finance like crowd funding, the question is are we likely to revert back towards local energy companies and rebuilding the connections between production and consumption?

Back in 2013 the BBC reported on a community project to install high-speed fibre optic broadband into a rural village in Lancashire, a project crowd funded by the community.  Telecommunications, like energy, is a highly technical and regulated industry so this is an interesting model of what is possible. On a recent visit to Bavaria I saw a 6km gas pipe from a farmer’s Anaerobic Digestion plant to the local village.  The project was planned and actually constructed by the farmer and then tested by the appropriate authorities.  The Danish examples of community owned wind farms and district heating are well known.  The last few years has seen a growing interest (and actual investment) in community energy schemes in the UK, although most of these are dependent on subsidies through Feed-in Tariffs for renewables.  We should not expect continuation of subsidies for any form of energy – it is not sustainable – but we should expect and demand more community engagement and ownership of the energy system.  Many local authorities are evaluating the possibility of municipally owned energy companies and the leading authorities are now implementing their plans. 

A lot of people talk about disrupting the energy industry but then go on to talk about models that sound strangely similar to the existing system.  Real disruption would involve creating new mechanisms to facilitate individuals and communities to be able to design their own energy services system – based on sound technical and economic analysis rather than reliance on subsidies and technology fantasies.  Such a system would be far more diversified and de-centralized than our current energy system.  We should always remember that no-one actually wants to buy energy – they want to have the benefits of energy services - comfort, light, sound, mobility.  A shift towards prosuming energy would almost certainly encourage true services models that provide a combination of efficiency, demand response, storage and energy supply – a combination that probably changes in real-time to match the current conditions.

It is finally being recognized that improving energy efficiency brings many co-benefits such as improved productivity, better health and economic development and work soon to be published by the International Energy Agency demonstrates these co-benefits in many areas.  Community involvement, the rise of “prosuming”, in the energy system, would provide many co-benefits other than just energy savings or reductions in emissions, not the least of which would be improved individual and social engagement, a greater sense of ownership and control.  That could be considered priceless.

Producer and consumer, divorced by the industrial revolution, are reunited in the cycle of wealth creation, with the customer contributing not just the money but market and design information vital for the production process. Buyer and supplier share data, information, and knowledge. Someday, customers may also push buttons that activate remote production processes. Consumer and producer fuse into a "prosumer." (Alvin Toffler, Powershift, 1990: 239)

Dr. Steven Fawkes


Steven Fawkes has over 30 years experience in energy efficiency and is actively involved in energy efficiency financing programmes in Europe and North America.  He is the author of “Energy Efficiency”, published by Gower and the blog: www.onlyelevenpercent.com


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November is coming and with it this year’s Heat Conference. Here at the CHPA, we’re delighted to be working with the Energy Institute again to bring together what has become the focal annual event for the heat industry.

Our theme this year is “lean heat”. We want to understand more about how we meet our need for heat in a cost-effective way. And we want to pose the question: how can we cut waste, manage costs, increase security of supply and meet our carbon targets at the same time?

Planning for this year’s conference began almost immediately after Heat 2013. After a great, sold-out conference and a vibrant CHPA Awards Dinner, we had no time to rest on our laurels. Venues needed to be booked: this year, we’re branching out to two new London locations. And we needed to start thinking about key themes, issues the industry might be facing come November 2014, and voices and faces that could bring those issues to life for our delegates, sponsors and stakeholders.

Since then, we’ve been working hard to bring together an exciting programme of speakers and we’re delighted to have so many top names confirmed. Keep an eye on our programme page and Twitter feed for further announcements.

We have also been working on both the CHPA Awards and the Energy Institute Awards, ensuring recognition for those in the heat and wider energy industry who are achieving great things.

And we’ve been bringing together a great group of sponsors and exhibitors to showcase their own achievements on the day itself. There are still some sponsorship opportunities available, so visit the Sponsorship page or contact Brian McGuire at the CHPA on brian.mcguire@chpa.co.uk for further details.

We’re looking forward to Heat 2014 on Wednesday 5th November. We hope to see you there!

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So last week our wait was over and we were able to meet old friends and enjoy the Heat Conference 2013 jointly held by the Combined Heat and Power Association and the Energy Institute.  This was the second year it had been held and I'm sure it'll become a firm fixture. There was a marked focus on the customer to the extent that previously familiar diagrams were turned upside-down or back-to-front or even inside-out to ensure the customer was at the start of our thinking process. As they should always be, of course.

The first session was chaired by the former SSE Chief Executive Ian Marchant and we kicked off with the Chief Executive of the Committee for Climate Change David Kennedy’s and his adroit overview of where we are.  To summarise it's not getting better, although he managed to add a positive spin. 

He was swiftly followed by Louise Strong from Which? who pounded us with a “customer reality check”. If we didn’t know who was the most important person at the start of her presentation, we had no doubt by the end.  Amongst the excellent points made she emphasised that presently customers connected to heat networks are afforded no protection from Ofgem or even the Energy Ombudsman.  I didn’t know that.  Part of her reality check was the results of a consumer survey on trust.  Possibly there was no surprise that at the top of the “Don’t trust” table were the energy companies not so closely followed by the car salesmen.  That’s right car salesmen!  And after five years of being the master villains, banks and financial services now seem to have completed their penance and transformed their relationship with consumers to be verging on warm and cuddly relative to the energy sector.  So when it comes to heat, if you think customers will welcome an organisation they don’t trust, to sell them something they don’t know about and can’t do without then probably you’ve got another think coming.

With most of us suitably chastened the mood of the conference was then lifted by Rt Hon Gregory Barker MP, Minister for Energy and Climate Change who gave an accomplished presentation of the Government’s achievements on Heat.  Yes, it has moved up the agenda.  Yes, there is still much more to do. But the question everyone wanted to know the answer to was what was he going to do about £139m tax hit on  CHP plant.  For reasons I won’t go into but more information is here, CHP plant used to receive a small incentive to reflect its low carbon credentials.  That disappeared a couple of years ago and then with the introduction of the Carbon Price Floor it now finds itself worse off than equivalent electricity only plant which has a much lower efficiency.  This double whammy is having a serious impact on existing CHP plant and future plant is being shelved left, right and centre.  So what was he going to be doing about it?  Well, no answer was forthcoming but the Minister coyly hinted that there might be something in the Autumn statement. 

There then followed a series of questions from audience, one of which the Minister openly stated he didn’t know the answer to. He then asked the audience to be a patient whilst he read the lips of one of his advisers. Well that was honest I thought.

During his presentation the Minister had emphasised the need to take an integrated approach to energy as well as expounding the virtues of Electricity Market Reform.  I couldn’t let him get away with that and so I held up my hand.  Unfortunately the smell of coffee and croissants wafting down the aisle and had an overpowering effect on most of the audience and Ian Marchant sensing the mood, ended the session and my opportunity to ask a question. 

So what was my question? Well if he so strongly supported an integrated approach to energy why is there no reference to heat in the Draft Energy Bill?  In fact, other than the movement of nuclear fuel, transport is not referred to either.  I am sure he would have had a good answer or, if not, he would have read the lips of someone who did.

We then moved into the remaining sessions, all of which were very good but I am just going to focus on three. The first of these was from Alasdair Young from Buro Happold looking at the role for heat networks with a particular focus on London.  The potential is large and there’s a mass of documentation covering studies which are available here.  These include wasted ( I always add the “d”) heat from range of sources including sewers, metro tunnels (London Underground), electricity infrastructure, commercial buildings and so on.  The estimate is that about 75% of London’s heat needs could be met by wasted heat.  That’s about 50 TWh and, on the assumption it displaces gas, about 10 Mt of CO2. Not to be sneezed at I’m sure you’ll agree.

The second presentation was by Marcus Stewart from National Grid. He presented the results of their Future Energy Scenarios (available here) but with the focus on how the UK is to meet the heat challenge.  The process used by National Grid in constructing the scenarios is impressive and involves wide scale consultation and engagement via a number of workshops held across the country. I think most would agree that National Grid has gone out of its way to be inclusive in the development of its scenarios.  But I couldn’t agree with their conclusions on heat as they saw almost no role for district heat networks.  According to National Grid in 2050 heat is delivered predominantly my heat pumps supplemented by some gas and bio energy. But no district heat networks. I need to get to the bottom of this and was pleased that Marcus was happy to discuss their analysis in more detail and so hopefully my questions will be answered soon.

The final session I want to touch on was a presentation from Stewart Reid of SSE on the Northern Isles New Energy Solutions (NINES) project. There’s some information here but in brief, Shetland has no electricity connection with the mainline, has no gas, plenty of wind and relies on an ageing oil fired power station which needs to close.  But they’re not just going to replace it with another.  Instead they are looking at arrange of solutions which include demand side management with “Smart” storage and water heating, extension of the existing district heating system as well as the installation of the largest battery in Great Britain.  Underpinning all of this will be active network management.  I think there could be a lot the mainland could learn from this fascinating project and I will certainly continue to follow it closely.

In the interests of political balance, the conference closed with a key note speech from Jonathan Reynolds MP, Shadow Minister for Climate Change. Recently appointed, I thought he did rather well covering Labour’s approach to heat, energy efficiency as well as displaying faux concern that Greg Barker looked a little bleary eyed.  Was this to do with his statement that he wouldn’t be sleeping if he didn’t have 10,000 signed up to the Green Deal at the end of the year? He probably won’t be sleeping much next year either.  

He spoke about Labour’s price freeze and then spoke briefly about the reforms Labour would make to the energy market, including going back to the Electricity Pool.  I was a little gob smacked by this.  So all the arguments used by the Labour Government back in the late 1990’s to go from the Pool to Neta have been turned on their head to justify going back to the Pool. Perhaps he doesn’t know that it cost about £600 million and took 5 years (see here).  In my opinion it was a waste of time and money then and it would be waste of time and money now.  The one theme that kept being repeated throughout the conference was the need for policy stability.  Read my lips, Shadow Minister, don’t do it.

Conference presentations are available here  and if you have any comments you can Tweet me @rcsansom.  

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In my role as President of the Energy Institute, I chaired the first session of the major annual heat conference that we host in partnership with the CHPA . In my foreword to the conference programme I described heat as the Cinderella of the energy industry, not because electricity and transport are ugly sisters but because heat always gets forgotten or left behind in policy debates. The panel discussion I chaired focused on the consumer view of heat and the representative of Calor Gas made the crucial point that decisions on heat are usually made in a rush. When the central heating boiler breaks down and needs to be replaced we don't have the luxury of time to consider alternative technologies such as heat pumps, we simply want our house and family to be warm again. That isn't helped by our lack of knowledge. Research by Which? showed that most of us haven't heard of the alternative technologies anyway.

Against this background the Climate Change Minister, Greg Barker, then gave a keynote address setting out what Government was doing to stimulate the decarbonisation of heat. He described the three levels at which interventions could be targeted and where decisions are made. They are:

1. The individual household where the choices of solar thermal and heat pumps are available.
2. The local level at which district heating schemes are an option.
3. The national level where greening the gas supply by injecting biogas can be deployed.

I decided to do an unscientific straw poll of the audience; the 'heat choir' if you like, and the result was quite striking. I asked which of the three levels could have the biggest impact on the achievement of the UKs targets and where Government effort should be targeted.  5% opted for the national route;, 15% voted for the individual household but an overwhelming 80% selected the local level. The clarity of the result surprised me and certainly had an impact on the Minister.

I was left wondering whether district heating really was Cinderella's glass slipper! 

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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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I grew up before energy efficiency was discovered - or rather it just wasn't necessary.  We had one heated room and that was it. The rest of the house was cold and so were we. Insulation would have been pointless as it was nearly as cold inside as it was outside. In fact it often felt colder.  On a sunny morning it wasn’t unusual for me to open my bedroom window to let the warm(er) air in.

That all changed with Economy 7. Introduced in the 1970s to allow electricity to compete with North Sea gas it offered the prospects of ending winter misery with the installation of a new technology called storage heaters. It was very simple; you put half priced electricity in at night and somehow it came out during the day. I can remember waking up to warm bliss. Wearing my coat indoors was no longer necessary and I could eat my breakfast without gloves. It was great. But arriving home in the evening I was disappointed to find the house cold again. Not as cold as it used to be but not much better. A little later we discovered another drawback: cost. The electricity may have been half priced but it still cost a lot.

Talk to others with experience of storage heaters and you’ll get similar tales and perhaps that is why there isn't much enthusiasm for them. There are still over 6 million storage heaters and I would expect for many they are probably not the best heating solution. But does that mean that storage heaters have no future? I am not so sure.

Modern storage heaters are said to be more efficient and “smarter”. With a decarbonized grid they offer a low carbon heating solution along with demand side management potential, thereby providing a major source of much needed flexibility.   In terms of capital costs, they are a lot lower than alternatives such as heat pumps but also the impact on upstream infrastructure is substantially less as  they can avoid peak demand. Running costs are likely to be higher due to their lower efficiency but for well insulated households with low heat demand they could be an attractive option suitable for large scale deployment.

I’m pleased to see that we have one session in the conference where storage heaters are discussed. Let’s put any prejudices we have aside as we might be surprised with what they can offer.

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

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