The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero has announced nearly £80m in funding to develop four green heating projects across England alongside a further £8m investment intended to enhance efficiency in existing heat networks.
The funds are being released from the Green Heat Network, which backs the development of heat networks that supply low-carbon heat and hot water to multiple buildings from a central source.
These projects aim to reduce carbon emissions, cut energy bills, and help the UK reach net-zero emissions by 2050.
A huge amount of waste energy is generated in various industrial processes in the UK as well as in our daily activities. Waste heat is a byproduct of these manufacturing and human waste disposal processes which can be harnessed to produce low-cost, low-carbon heating. The Green Heat Network Fund (GHNF) allows innovative solutions such as these to be used.
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Here's a summary of the four projects to receive a share of the £80.6m from the Green Heat Network Fund:
Bolton District Heating Network
One of the four projects, located in Bolton, has received £11m in Government funding. The Green Heat Network Fund (GNHF) is supporting the innovative network which will use waste heat from the combined sewer running into the town centre as well as heat from sewage and waste hot water to fuel a new heat pump for Bolton’s first district heating network. The project aims to capture and distribute waste heat pre-heated from washing machines, showers, baths, and kitchens to capture and distribute to buildings. The heat network is forecast to save 123,000 tonnes of carbon emissions over 40 years as a result which is equivalent to taking 15,000 cars off the road, a 75% reduction in emissions.
The project will also be supplemented by additional capacity from an Air Source Heat Pump, allowing for further expansion across Bolton. The scheme aims to heat nearly 2,000 public buildings and residential and commercial buildings, encompassing, the Bolton Town Hall and Le Mans Crescent, social housing developments, and the University of Bolton. The heat network is also expected to connect to various new-build residential developments to help create energy-efficient, sustainable homes for new residents.
The purpose of the project is to decrease dependence on conventional energy sources and to make energy bills more cost-effective for residents and businesses.
Exeter Energy Network
More than half of the new funding from GHNF, £42.5m has been set aside for a heat network in Exeter, to power buildings across the city using air-source heat pumps and the UK’s largest high-temperature water source heat pump. The Exeter Energy Network will be developed by the 1Energy Group, which is investing an additional £70 million in the project.
The Exeter heat network as well as incorporating the UK’s largest high-temperature water source heat pump will potentially utilise other local sources of waste heat in the Exeter area. The water source heat pump will be installed alongside a minimum of 500m3 of thermal stores to provide additional efficiency and flexibility.
An energy centre will distribute the renewable heat to buildings across the city via a 20km network of highly insulated underground pipes. The first phase of the project will provide 60GWh of low-carbon heat demand annually, expanding to over 90GWh per year as the project develops.
Buildings that are connected to the network will see an initial reduction of 65-75% in carbon emissions compared to gas heating, which will cut carbon emissions by 13,000 tonnes per year.
Hull East Heat Network
£22m has also been awarded to Vital Energi Utilities Ltd for the Hull East District Heat Network to power council buildings and industrial firms in Hull using excess heat from the nearby Saltend chemicals park. This innovative use of waste heat from industry is Phase 1 of the project.
The heat network will distribute low-carbon heating to 14 public sector council buildings and a mixture of industrial customers, helping decarbonise one of the UK’s industrial hotspots. Hull East is also hoping to secure green solar energy to help power the network whilst supplying energy to other customers across the Yorkshire Energy Park, a next-generation energy and technology business park currently in development.
Construction of the heat network is expected to begin later in 2024, with the heat network capable of expanding to supply further connections and using other renewable heat sources across the energy park once completed.
Greenwich Peninsula ESCO District Heating Network
Greenwich Peninsula ESCO Ltd, a Knight Dragon company has been awarded £4.6m towards commercialisation and construction funding for decarbonising the Greenwich Peninsula district heating network. The Greenwich Peninsula development is one of London’s flagship new hubs for creativity. Funding from the Green Heat Network Fund (GHNF) will allow enough low-carbon heat to be generated to heat 2,300 existing homes and 7,115 new-build homes. Low carbon heat will also be provided to 84,000m2 of existing commercial space, with an additional 10,400m2 of new planned commercial space as the development expands.
The project will be made possible by a 5MW air source heat pump installed on the rooftop of the existing Greenwich Peninsula Energy Centre.
As well as the funding from the Green Heat Network Fund (GHNF), the UK government has distributed more than £8m through the Heat Network Efficiency Scheme to improve 34 heat network projects across England and Wales. This scheme will enable network operators to replace outdated equipment and improve overall heating performance. These upgrades will provide a more reliable heating supply to more than 9,000 residents, hospital patients, students, and public sector workers while also minimising costs.
Projects selected for funding to enhance heat networks include:
• Newport City Homes Housing Association Limited has been awarded £3.7m for upgrading the Dyffryn District Heating System by replacing pipework, benefiting more than 970 homes, a local school, and businesses.
• Bristol Heat Networks Limited has been granted £746,582 for improvements to the Redcliffe Heat Network, benefiting 740 residents. The funding is designated for replacing pipework throughout the network.
• University of Plymouth has been allocated £243,280 to upgrade the heating system in the Portland Square area of its campus. The funding will enhance network efficiency, facilitating the replacement of fossil fuel-powered appliances with heat pumps and electric boilers.
Lord Callanan, Minister for Energy Efficiency and Green Finance, said:â¯
“These innovative projects will help drive down energy costs while also demonstrating why the UK has led the way in cutting carbon emissions. They show how energy sources can be found in the most unexpected places as more homes and businesses will benefit from cleaner heating and lower energy bills.”
Heat networks, which supply heating and hot water to multiple buildings from a central source, play a vital role in the UK’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions, with heating in buildings currently contributing to 30% of all UK emissions.
Sarah Honan, head of policy at the Association for Decentralised Energy, said the latest funding clearly showed how heat networks could play a major role in decarbonising across the UK's cities and towns.
"As we embark on the journey towards regulation, heat network zoning, and the expansion of existing schemes, the ADE is very glad to see the government supporting sector growth and high industry standards.
Heat networks are a key solution in the mix of technologies that will make up the energy system of the future - not only will they be essential in decarbonising our homes and offices, factories and shops, but without them, the UK will not be able to build the truly resilient and flexible grid needed for the future."
The UK government is aiming for 600,000 heat pumps to be installed in homes and businesses each year by 2028, up from 55,000 in 2021. The government however has been warned by its own climate advisors time and again that it is not on track to deliver this outcome and that much greater efforts need to be made to grow the UK’s skills base and manufacturing capacity to bring down costs.
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