4th Generation Heat Networks

In an earlier blog I discussed how cities in the UK were finally stepping up their investment in energy generation and distribution with a particular emphasis on heat networks in Sheffield, Nottingham and Stoke.

The presentation I made in July 2013 set out what a 4th Generation, 21st Century, heat network should achieve. It should seek to achieve a number of improvements on existing networks, including:

  1. Greater resilience, through heat storage, back-up and optimisation;
  2. Lower carbon heat, through the adoption of lower carbon fuel sources, such as geothermal heat, biomass, biogas, solar;
  3. Choice and product differentiation, offered through multiple heat providers inputting to a singular (independent possibly) network over which consumers buy their heat. Products could be differentiated by temperature (return temperatures are lower than those temperatures leaving central plant), carbon intensity (fuels of varying intensities of heat can command different prices and values shaped by carbon markets and carbon targets).

The presentation made in July 2013 set out a city-wide vision for heat networks across Sheffield, blending together heat sources from domestic and commercial waste incineration (Veolia) biomass (E.ON), industrial waste heat (Forgemasters), gas and oil (Veolia, Sheffield City Council and others).

At the time of writing, it is encouraging to see the links between E.ON’s 25MW heat plant at Blackburn Meadows being built out to connect to South Yorkshire Police, Sheffield International Venues and Forgemasters. More disappointingly is the apparent inertia in connecting to the Veolia and Sheffield City Council plants. The potential to reduce carbon emissions, cost and develop greater resilience can only be delivered if ambition, long term vision and commercial differences can be resolved. The City has a key role to play in making this happen and the City Council has a significant asset base to de-risk this investment, including the 50KM+ network operated by Veolia on its behalf. So, it is disappointing that connections proposed originally 3 years ago to Veolia and the Greenland housing estate in Darnall are still to be connected.

 

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