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Seaside Town Worthing Launches Ambitious Decarbonisation Project

Seaside Town Worthing Launches Ambitious Decarbonisation Project

Heat pump decarbonisation project

Worthing in West Sussex has launched a project to develop a heat network system that could eventually meet the heating needs of every building in town. The Worthing Heat Network scheme has pledged to offer climate-friendly heating to every building in the town by 2050. 

Worthing Borough Council has secured £500m of investment from heat network investor, developer, and operator Hemiko to deliver the scheme. Though the plan to build a major heat network also known as district heating across the town is an ambitious decarbonisation project Worthing Borough Council identified a heat network as the cheapest and most efficient way to decarbonise the town’s buildings.

The scheme is a positive example of climate action in an otherwise difficult landscape for local authorities. According to polling from the Local Government Association, more than two-thirds (68%) of local authorities are not confident that they will hit their net-zero targets.
Hemiko is set to fund, deliver, and operate the network with the initial phase of the scheme focusing on connecting mostly large-scale public sector buildings to a heat pump system. 

Construction of the initial phase of the project is expected to begin in July 2024 with the first buildings expected to be connected to the network by summer 2025. These buildings include the Worthing Town Hall, Worthing Hospital, the Assembly Hall, Portland House, Worthing Museum and Art Gallery, and the Connaught Theatre, according to the project’s backers. At this stage, the Worthing Heat Network Centre will be a heat pump system, consisting of 3 large air-source heat pumps in an energy centre near the High Street multi-storey carpark, collecting heat from the air. Over time, the network will bring on more and more sources of locally available, wasted heat. The initial stage of the project has been backed by £40m of funding from Hemiko and £7m from the government's Department for Energy Security and Net Zero Heat Networks Investment Project.

Heat networks work by collecting local unused heat, turning it into hot water, and distributing that hot water to local users via a network of underground pipes. This will mean that connected buildings can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels for heating and hot water which will decrease their heating emissions by 90%.  

Heat networks use a centralised source of heat which can be anything from a large heat pump drawing energy from water or air to waste heat from a data centre. With a heat network, there is no longer any need for individual heat pumps, boilers, or hot water tanks in properties. Heating and hot water are provided from the piped heat through a heat exchanger which for a home is about the same size as a small gas boiler and can be individually controlled.

Energy Efficiency and Green Finance Minister Lord Callanan said that Worthing Borough Council’s plans were evidence of the UK’s “world-leading” approach to decarbonisation. 

"Ambitious projects like this in Worthing are why the UK is a world leader when it comes to reducing carbon emissions. We awarded over £7m to Worthing Borough Council to help get the project off the ground, and I'm pleased to see they now have a partner in Hemiko to deliver a scheme that will benefit the whole town by delivering cheaper energy bills and lower carbon emissions."

He said that the Worthing project was part of a nationwide programme that had seen the government invest more than £500m to expand the district heating sector since 2019. A new package of consumer protections has been developed to ensure customers can access the full benefits of heat networks. 


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Hemiko has said that the first phase of the project is forecast to save more than 3,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year which is equivalent to taking 2,000 cars off roads as well as creating 40 local jobs. It is expected that the scheme will support 500 jobs by 2050. 

Though initially, the focus will be on non-domestic buildings and new-build homes it is expected that connection to the heat network will expand to include existing homes in the next 5 to 10 years as heat supplied by the network becomes more cost-competitive. 

The Worthing scheme is not Hemiko’s first heat network project. This is the company’s third project in West Sussex alone. The business is rolling out this offer countrywide and has £1 billion in investment to set up low-carbon heat networks in towns and cities by 2030. 

Councillor Sophie Cox, Worthing’s Cabinet Member for Climate Emergency, said:

“The Worthing Heat Network is an exciting development in our transition to low carbon heating and an important milestone in our mission to be a carbon neutral council by 2030 and a net zero borough by 2045. I’m really looking forward to the council working alongside Hemiko on the next stages of the project and bringing low carbon heating to the residents and business of Worthing.”

Toby Heysham, chief executive at Hemiko, said: 

“We’re incredibly proud to have been selected as Worthing Borough Council’s partner for the Worthing Heat Network. It will be an invaluable piece of infrastructure for the local community, not only because it will cut the town’s emissions significantly and improve public health, but it will also offer jobs, apprenticeships, and a hub for innovation and investment into the town. This news follows Hemiko’s recent investment in two heat networks in south London. It’s an exciting time to be part of the Hemiko team, as we roll out our decarbonisation offer across more towns and cities. With £1 billion of investment to deploy by 2030, this is only the start of a very exciting next few years.”

Ken Hunnisett, Heat Network Investment Project lead at Triple Point, said: 

“District Heating and cooling will play a significant role in the way we decarbonise our buildings in the transition to Net Zero. Until such time as the sector becomes financially self-sustaining, grant funding is often required to ensure commercially viable projects. We were thrilled to be able to support Worthing Borough Council’s goal to deliver this scheme and are excited to see Hemiko bring it to life, and build on the Council’s ambition, in the months to come.”

The use of heat networks is expected to grow significantly over the next 25 years as the next UK utility. They currently supply heat to around 3% of UK buildings but as the UK moves away from polluting gas and oil boilers to meet its climate targets it is anticipated that up to a fifth of homes could be heated through heat networks by 2050.  In the right places, heat networks are around 40% cheaper than individual air-source heat pumps.

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