#COP21 -Now We Know the Rules, Let’s Play the Game

Over the past two weeks or so we’ve seen some good coverage of the talks in Paris that have set the objectives for carbon reduction across 97% of the world’s population (and 94% of all emissions). In fact, the UK have covered the talks extensively in mainstream media.

What’s been agreed is usefully summarised in this excellent infographic by The Conversation. To use a sporting analogy, it’s as if, over the past two weeks, a FIFA delegation has sat down to agree the new rules and objectives for football and the next World Cup. The overall objective hasn’t shifted and everyone knows what’s needed to win – it’s the subtleties of the rules which have changed. Imagine this:

  • We don’t have time for 90 minutes, you’re going to have to play faster, harder but over 60 instead.
  • If you’re an established World Cup qualifier from the ‘developed world’ you’re going to have to do even better just to qualify because you’ve had it good for far, far too long. Show some leadership on this Germany, UK, France.
  • Developing nations – we know we make it tough for you to qualify, so we’re going to relax things a little for you, but if you fail, we all fail. So don’t get complacent. You still need to improve, score goals and up your game.

The good news is – to win you still need to play well and score goals. There are many ways in which you might achieve this but we’ll be asking to see your tactics every five years and we’ll decide whether we think they’re good enough. But, unless everyone plays well and scores lots of goals the World Cup will fail. Success is dependent on everyone winning – not just a few of you.

Even then, there are many who have questioned whether the talks have created a contract strong enough to avoid dangerous climate change beyond the 2 degree increase. That’s where my analogy ends. But other commentators have been superb in unpicking the nuances of the agreement.

Several, unsurprisingly, recognise that deal doesn’t go far enough. They are not applauding the efforts of the bureaucrats and diplomats who fought their corner and, to be fair in many cases, championed the commitment of their nations. They are identifying that the deal wont avoid that 2 degree increase. It wont avoid devastating climate change that will follow it. They are pointing out that there is a very real risk that these wont be achieved and that it’s all very well having clear rules and objectives – what we need now is compliance and for those nations to play the game as it is intended.

Katja Frieler, the Deputy Chair, Climate Impacts and Vulnerabilities, at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research  says:

At the Paris climate summit, delegates have struck an agreement that calls for the world to “hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2℃ above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5℃”.

But the climate action pledges made by 185 countries ahead of the summit don’t add up to 1.5℃ or warming or even 2℃. Taken together, they add up to a 2.7℃ world.

As the negotiations go on, 2015 is about to set a new global temperature record, and is likely to have reached 1℃ warming already. (Read the full article here).

Myles Allen writes in The Conversation:

I wonder how many of the delegates in Paris realise that they have just created the mother of all “take-back schemes”. As a consumer, you may have already come across this sort of deal: if you don’t want to dispose of the packaging of your new sofa, you can take it back to IKEA and it’s their problem. In many places, you can even take back the sofa itself when your kids have wrecked it. For the Paris climate deal to succeed something similar will have to happen, where companies that rely on fossil fuels will be obliged to “take back” their emissions.

I remain optimistic. For the first time since Kyoto it feels like the World’s Leaders get it … but leaving behind their own short term political time horizons and their nation’s own self-interest means there is a very real danger the objectives wont materialise. It’s likely that it will be those in the poorest of nations who will suffer the consequences of failure first, deepest and longest. They may never recover from a failure to deliver these targets.

The involvement of businesses in these talks has been scrutinised. This is complex, but there are companies out there – micro to global – with the solutions to these challenges. Their involvement has been to illustrate how a low carbon revolution is good for society, good for the planet and can deliver sustainable economics. It’s this argument that stands between Paris being a success or being considered a two week jamboree of hot air. A solid, unwavering commitment to low carbon policies that encourage investment in new technologies that harness the energy of the sun, the wind, the waves, the tides is central to this. A commitment to leaving as much coal, gas and oil in the ground as is possible is necessary.

Holding politicians to account is important. They’ve signed up to this because, in the UK at least, it’s something voters believe is important. The UK government has been warned that a major U-turn in energy policy is required if it is to avoid charges of blatant hypocrisy following the commitments it made in the Paris climate deal this weekend. Critics say that the first test for Amber Rudd, the energy and climate change secretary, will come later this week, when she announces whether or not she plans to go ahead with a proposed 90% cut in solar subsidies.

Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry, the UK’s main employers’ organisation, demanded on Sunday that ministers take action at home as well as making their voice heard abroad. “The government must provide a stable environment that enables investment in cleaner, more affordable and more secure energy generation, including renewable technologies and new gas plants,” she said.

The negotiators have done their bit. The deal is drafted and there is a contract of commitment in place. The politicians have signed it off and now need to deliver. Fortunately, business sees the opportunity this challenge presents. It’s a huge, trillion $ opportunity. But we cannot rely on politicians and business alone. If we do, we’ll likely end up 20 years on without having made the necessary cuts in emissions we need.

We all need to contribute – that means taking individual action too. This brilliant piece about home comforts and energy consumption by Katherine Ellsworth-Krebs says it eloquently.

What characteristics would your ideal home have? A sauna? Lots of natural light? An open-plan kitchen? Whatever your answer, you probably didn’t consider how the things you wanted would affect the energy you use. The link between comfort and energy is not something that troubles most people, but actually it’s very important. In the UK, our houses consume up to 27% of the energy we produce.

What a pity then, that the UK Government scrapped the introduction of the Zero Carbon Homes policy for 2016. It’s scrapped the Green Deal and has withdrawn millions of £ of funding to improve the existing stock’s energy efficiency. As Jeremy Leggett, the founder of world leading renewable energy company Solarcentury, spelled out: the challenge for Rudd and George Osborne, the latter being seen as the real axeman of green policies. “The government has a huge credibility problem, having signed a treaty of historic importance, and yet [having] been pursuing a path of [energy policy] travel that is 180 degrees opposed to what is needed,” he said.

 

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“Fundamentally, I want energy policy to be boring”. Oh.

I’ve just read Amber Rudd’s speech on a new direction for UK energy policy (Source: Amber Rudd’s speech on a new direction for UK energy policy – Speeches – GOV.UK). I have to say, nothing in it surprised me. She wants it to be boring. I’d like it to be a little more enthusiastic, exciting and innovative. It chimes with the Conservative approach to energy policy we’ve seen before. It even celebrates the sell-off of the UK’s energy assets.

So, read the speech and make up your own mind, but there were some [amusingly?] redacted ‘political content’ that didn’t make it and then it was a case of ‘Tory Bingo’ with some common phrases – these all made it in:

  1. This Government is focused on securing a better future for Britain.
  2. We’re encouraging investment in our shale gas exploration so we can add new sources of home-grown supply to our real diversity of imports.
  3. We know competition works. It keeps costs low and can deliver a clean and reliable energy system.
  4. It’s about the long term security of our energy supply. And my view is that is best served through open, competitive markets.
  5. And I can say to Europe that Britain stands ready to help make this vision a reality.
  6. Opponents of nuclear misread the science. It is safe and reliable.
  7. So our approach will be different – we will not support offshore wind at any cost.

The bits I expected to see were all there:

It’s pro-nuclear, pro-fracking. With regard to heat: “We will set out our approach next year, as part of our strategy to meet our carbon budgets.” Disappointing given the good work done by DECC on its Heat Strategy not so long ago – and still a long way down the contents of her speech unfortunately. Pleasingly: To set an example to the rest of the world, the UK also has to focus on where we can get the biggest carbon cuts, swiftly and cheaply … and Innovative, new suppliers, which range from start-ups to local authorities, are demonstrating how competition is working for people.

Deep, deep in the statement a final mention for energy efficiency: More than 1.2 million households are seeing lower bills due to energy efficiency improvements over the last 5 years. We are committed to ensuring a million more get the same benefits by the end of this Parliament. But no mention of the Green Deal, the commercial opportunities in energy efficiency nor the links with housing policy.

Boring? Is that the same as ‘unsurprising’?

 

District energy in cities – UNEP Report

The development of ‘modern’ district energy (DE) systems is one of the best options, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in a new publication: District energy in cities – unlocking the potential of energy efficiency and renewable energy. Launched at the International District Energy Association’s (IDEA’s) annual conference last month, the report calls for the accelerated deployment of DE systems around the world. The full report is available here.

 

The District Energy in Cities Initiative will support national and municipal governments in their efforts to develop, retrofit or scale up district energy systems, with backing from international and financial partners and the private sector. The initiative will bring together cities, academia, technology providers and financial institutions in a joint ambition to build the necessary capacity and transfer of know-how while engaging all stakeholders and reducing emissions. Twinning between cities – matching champion ones with learned ones will be a key component of the new district energy in cities initiative to scale up lessons learned and best practices.

 

19 cities around the world have indicated interest in joining the initiative. In addition to Danfoss, eleven other private sector and industry associations’ partners commit to contribute technical. In addition to UNEP, six intergovernmental and government organisations as well as networks are interested to support the new initiative and to facilitate technological expertise. This new initiative is being co-ordinated by UNEP and Danfoss with lead partners ICLEI and UN-Habitat. A key finding was that LOCAL GOVERNMENTS ARE UNIQUELY POSITIONED TO ADVANCE DISTRICT ENERGY SYSTEMS in their various capacities as planners and regulators, as facilitators of finance, as role models and advocates, and as large consumers of energy and providers of infrastructure and services (e.g., energy, transport, housing, waste collection, and wastewater treatment). This was something I wrote about in previous blogs on this site. See: Waste, Steam and District Heating in Nottingham; Can we be transparent on District Heat Data?; 4th Generation Heat Networks; Cities Take the Lead on District Energy

 

 

 

Consumer Protection Needed for Heat Networks – Which?

In the wake of the UK Government’s Heat Strategy and subsequent investment in heat mapping, feasibility studies and heat networks “the need for the UK’s district heating industry to be properly regulated has been emphasised by a survey from leading consumer watchdog, Which?

“The watchdog has called on the British government to reconsider allowing the UK’s emerging district heat market to operate without regulation, after research revealed that many customers feel ripped off and confused by contracts they cannot escape from.”

In the UK, regulation has hardly kept energy companies on track but consumers are likely to seek some protection when committing to long term connections with sole suppliers of heat. My experience of networks in Sheffield suggests this to be the case. Even if the product is good, the price stable and the infrastructure sound, consumers (led, often, by their insurers interest in liabilities) will seek protection. The cost of this will be borne by the end-user without doubt and this might mean some marginally economic schemes will fall by the wayside.

The report, unveiled yesterday, said some district heat providers effectively create monopolies because properties linked into the networks cannot switch suppliers if they are unhappy with the service. This is, in most cases, fact. Many UK heat networks have heat supplied from one source, or one supplier. Only when you start to see integrated heat networks with multiple technologies and suppliers will you see genuine competition that will self-regulate. Heat networks are a long way from that position.

The news, which comes just at a time when the Association for Decentralised Energy is pushing its new code of practice, called Heat Trust. Around 210,000 homes in the UK are currently connected to the networks and this is expected to rise to eight million by 2030 as part of efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the heat sector.

£3 million funding to boost low carbon heating

The cynic in me isn’t surprised that this announcement comes less than 60 days before the General Election, but I am not a cynic really. It’s good to see DECC’s continued support for district heating. If there is one thing this Government can be applauded for its understanding of the importance of ‘heat’ and the opportunity for heat networks to reduce carbon emissions and provide cost-effective heat. Well done to Davey and his team in carving out £3 million of funding to boost low carbon heating.

DECC has done some useful enabling work to support the uptake of heat networks. It has established the Heat Network Development Unit (HNDU) to lead this and has produced some useful studies to demonstrate the untapped potential out there – such as the report produced in 2014 on heat opportunities from rivers.

The Government’s own Heat Strategy states that producing heat is the biggest user of energy in the UK and in most cases we burn gas in individual boilers to produce this heat. This is a wasteful method of producing heat and a large emitter of CO2, with heat being responsible for 1/3 of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. Household heat demand has risen somewhat over the past 40 years from 400 TWh/y to 450 TWh/y, despite a marked improvement in the energy efficiency of homes and a slight reduction in the severity of winters. The average internal temperature of homes has risen by 6°C since the 1970s, and this combined with growth in housing – the number of households has risen by around 40% since the 1970s – has offset energy efficiency gains in terms of total energy used to heat homes Some studies suggest these temperature increases are due to factors including the move to central heating, rather than householders actively turning up their thermostats.

Heat networks in the UK use a range of heat sources including biomass and gas boilers, combined heat and power (CHP) plants and heat from energy-from-waste plants and, where conditions suit, such as is the case of Southampton, a small amount of geothermal heat. Networks are currently estimated to provide less than 2% of the UK’s heat demand supplying 172,000 domestic buildings (predominantly social housing, tower blocks and public buildings) and a range of commercial and industrial applications (particularly where high temperature heat in the form of steam is required). Despite being of a significant size, Sheffield’s city centre district energy network is estimated to provide 3% of the entire City’s total heat needs.

By comparison, district heating is widespread in many other parts of Europe, in China, Korea, Japan, Russia, and the USA, although the level of sophistication and reliability is very diverse. While having an average market share of 10% in Europe, district heat is particularly widespread in Scandinavia (Denmark nearly 70%, Finland 49%, and Sweden around 50%). It also has a substantial share elsewhere in Europe. For instance, district heat provides around 18% of heat in Austria (and 40% of heat in Vienna). European networks are currently growing at around 2,800 km per year, about 3% of current installed length. With the right planning, economic and market conditions it is clear district energy can play a more prominent role.

Whilst this funding announcement is showing funding going to new players in the district heating community as well as some established ones (Coventry, Leicester, Manchester, for example) there is a need to put money in to those long-established networks in cities that were at the forefront in decades past (Sheffield, Nottingham, Southampton). These ‘4th generation networks’ need to be reviewed, refreshed and developed as much as those ‘greenfield’ sites where district heating is all too new.

All the schemes developed to date have been local authority led. This round of funding allocates £3m across 55 local authorities in England and Wales. I would urge DECC to look at other types of organisation who might exploit heat networks at a medium scale where the conditions are right to do so. Those organisations with a long term stake in the city or town in which they are based are well placed. For example, NHS Trusts, universities and colleges, whilst not as big as an entire city or town often have enough scale in them to warrant district heating networks. Indeed, some of them already do. My own organisation, The University of Nottingham, has two of significance as well as several smaller, interconnected systems on its campuses. Most of them follow the model of high temperature, high pressure systems and don’t allow for storage, cooling or consider CHP. 

In the recent round of HEFCE/Salix Revolving Green Fund projects awarded interest free loans there were a good number of CHP schemes and a smaller number of district heating schemes put forward. I believe there would have been more had these organisations had sufficient revenue to develop shovel-ready projects for capital investment. Like the public sector, universities are often capital rich and revenue poor. That means that complex, integrated and multi-faceted feasibility studies can often become un-affordable – even if the capital is available for it to be delivered in time. I would like to see HNDU looking to other large organisations and helping them in the way that they have helped local authorities. If they could do it in partnership with the funding council and with their established partners, Salix Finance, even better. 

 

 

Cities Take the Lead on District Heating

We are entering a new age of Victoriana, where cities, bereft of Government spending and failed by national energy policy, are returning to their roles of municipal leadership and investing in the infrastructure they need to serve not only voters in homes but those businesses that generate the ever important business rates.

In the past 10 days, we have seen announcements about investments in local energy generation at a significant scale in Sheffield, in Nottingham and in Stoke. The drivers for this are many – it is not simply a carbon issue, nor is it solely an energy security issue. Nor is it just a revenue generating exercise or an investment in crucial business infrastructure. In fact, it’s all of these things – and more.

Whilst government debates whether nuclear is really our only solution for power and how fracking is our only solution for gas, there has been a quiet revolution underway in our towns and cities. Slowly, almost silently, cities such as Leicester and Coventry have invested in district heating networks, to join more established players like London, Nottingham and Sheffield.

The Government’s contribution, arguably, has been limited to developing some new policy frameworks (albeit without any real teeth) and seedcorn funding some (important) feasibility work in cities that have shown competence and ambition.

Why? Because the Government’s own Heat Strategy states that producing heat is the biggest user of energy in the UK and in most cases we burn gas in individual boilers to produce this heat. This is a wasteful method of producing heat and a large emitter of CO2, with heat being responsible for 1/3 of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. Household heat demand has risen somewhat over the past 40 years from 400 TWh/y to 450 TWh/y, despite a marked improvement in the energy efficiency of homes and a slight reduction in the severity of winters. The average internal temperature of homes has risen by 6°C since the 1970s, and this combined with growth in housing – the number of households has risen by around 40% since the 1970s – has offset energy efficiency gains in terms of total energy used to heat homes Some studies suggest these temperature increases are due to factors including the move to central heating, rather than householders actively turning up their thermostats.

In 2010 Sheffield households consumed 3,405GWh of gas. This figure includes gas used for cooking but the majority of this gas was used for heating and hot water. Using the carbon conversion figure of 0.1836kg/KWh[1] this equates to 625,158 T/CO2. District heating has the potential to create large carbon savings. For example, if 25% of this load, some 56,250 properties, were connected to district heating this could save up to 851GWh of gas which would reduce the cities carbon emissions by 156,290 T/CO2 per annum.

In most cases in the UK heat is something that is generated on-site in individual buildings, with customers buying fuel, such as gas, and converting that gas to heat through a boiler system. It is less common to buy heat itself. In other parts of the world, heat networks that transport heat to consumers through a network of insulated pipes are more common and here in Sheffield we have a long track record of creating heat at a commercial rather than domestic scale. A heat network – sometimes known as District Heating – is therefore a distribution technology rather than a heat technology, and its associated carbon emissions depend on the mix of sources for the heat in the pipes.

Heat networks are best deployed where the following conditions are satisfied:

  • long term low/zero carbon heat sources (or stores) are available; and
  • heat networks are capable of meeting average and peak heat demand without depending on fossil fuels in the future. 

Where these circumstances exist, heat networks can play a critical role in helping buildings and industry decarbonise their heat supply. Some pioneering local authorities, such as Sheffield, have already established heat networks in their city centres and are realising the benefits; better resource efficiency, new jobs and contracts, lower energy bills, and reducing fuel poverty.

Heat networks supply heat to a number of buildings or dwellings from a central heat production facility or facilities through an insulated pipe network. Most networks distribute heat using hot water at temperatures between 80-120°C. Where higher temperatures are required, such as for industrial applications heat energy is transported over shorter distances using steam at a few hundred degrees at a range of pressures depending on usage. Heat networks are best suited to areas with high heat demand density which influences how much pipework is needed to supply a given heat demand. They are most likely to be economic in areas that not only have concentrated demand but have fairly consistent demand over time (potentially for twelve months a year).Tower blocks represent a high heat density, as do dense urban communities bordering commercial or public sector buildings such as hospitals, schools or universities.

Because heat networks are able to deliver heat at scale and for a mix of uses, locating heat networks in areas with a mix of sources of demand also allows for the balancing of loads, e.g. housing with night-time peaks and swimming pools with day-time peaks.

Usually, heat networks start small and expand over time, potentially connecting to each other as they grow, creating larger networks that span city centres and a variety of building types. When networks are sufficiently developed, additional heat sources can be connected. As networks become more sophisticated, it may be that customers could have the choice of more than one supplier of heat, making competitive local markets possible.

Heat networks in the UK use a range of heat sources including biomass and gas boilers, combined heat and power (CHP) plants and heat from energy-from-waste plants and, where conditions suit, such as is the case of Southampton, a small amount of geothermal heat. Networks are currently estimated to provide less than 2% of the UK’s heat demand supplying 172,000 domestic buildings (predominantly social housing, tower blocks and public buildings) and a range of commercial and industrial applications (particularly where high temperature heat in the form of steam is required). Despite being of a significant size, Sheffield’s city centre district energy network is estimated to provide 3% of the entire City’s total heat needs.

By comparison, district heating is widespread in many other parts of Europe, in China, Korea, Japan, Russia, and the USA, although the level of sophistication and reliability is very diverse. While having an average market share of 10% in Europe, district heat is particularly widespread in Scandinavia (Denmark nearly 70%, Finland 49%, and Sweden around 50%). It also has a substantial share elsewhere in Europe. For instance, district heat provides around 18% of heat in Austria (and 40% of heat in Vienna). European networks are currently growing at around 2,800 km per year, about 3% of current installed length. With the right planning, economic and market conditions it is clear district energy can play a more prominent role.

Key drivers for the expansion of heat networks in Scandinavian countries were concerns about cost and security of supply following the oil price shocks of the 1970s. With no ready source of natural gas, these countries switched from oil boilers to heat networks in cities (and often to biomass and heat pumps in rural areas).The lower level of heat network deployment in the UK reflects the choices made in the past – most significantly the UK’s decision to access affordable natural gas from the North Sea, which provides a cost-effective and reliable source of heating.

The Government recognises that almost half (46%) of the final energy consumed in the UK is used to provide heat. Of this heat, around 75% is used by households and in commercial and public buildings with the remained used for manufacturing in industry. It is recognised that cooling currently accounts for only 0.5% but that it is recognised this is likely to change as a the UK grows warmer as a result of climate change.

 

 

The Government’s Heat Strategy recognises heat networks offer a way to supply heat directly to homes and businesses through a network of pipes, rather than supplying the fuel for people to generate heat on-site. Under some circumstances, heat networks can be the most effective way of supplying low carbon heat to buildings, and can offer greater convenience and reliability to consumers. Heat networks also offer flexibility over time, as a number of different heat sources can supply the same network.

It also recognises that heat networks are best suited to areas with high heat demand density (such as cities with a compact urban form) and that in urban areas they can, with individually controlled and metered heat, be  as reliable as gas boilers. Smaller scale heat networks can also serve buildings like blocks of flats where individual gas boilers may not be an option.

Heat networks are compatible with a wide range of heat supply options and provide a way to distribute low carbon heat, which makes them easily upgradeable, creating flexibility to make the transition to low carbon heat over time with less disruption for consumers and businesses. Most of the cost and disruption occurs at the point of initial construction and installation.

Heat networks need to be considered as a long term investment in the city. The economics mean that a return on investment will be over decades and it is essential to build in future-proofing  to ensure the supply of heat is easily upgradable, provided low/zero carbon sources are available. So in the near term, we can expand existing fossil fuel based heat networks and upgrade them to low carbon fuel supplies to deliver more substantial carbon savings and help to meet the UK’s emissions and renewable energy targets.

Fuel sources for heat networks will need to change over time. Gas CHP may represent a cost-effective and resource-efficient option to develop and supply district heating networks now, but is unlikely to be acceptable in the long term. Government needs to set a framework that encourages the replacement over time of generating plant with increasingly low carbon alternatives. In the right conditions, changing a central heat source for individual buildings is likely to involve less hassle and cost overall for customers than changing stand-alone technologies. Pipes also last significantly longer than individual heat-generating technologies.  Because pipe infrastructure is not fuel specific, a range of technology options can be used to generate the heat which is transported through the network, and each network can have generation plants in multiple locations. This means:

  • networks offer a solution to the problem of limited space in homes and buildings for low carbon technologies like heat pumps or biomass boilers and their accompanying hot water tanks. In urban areas in particular, where space is at a premium, this can be a big advantage; 
  • they can be upgraded over time according to local and national priorities, without impacting on consumers. For example, it may be economic in the short term to power a network with gas CHP, and to replace this with a lower carbon alternative such as biomass CHP in the medium to long term. In-building heat sources can also be replaced over time, but in many cases it may be easier to replace in-building heat sources once, to switch to district heating, and then replace the central heat source when appropriate, than to frequently replace the in-building heat source; 
  • they can take advantage of economies of scale to realise greater efficiencies and keep costs down for consumers; 
  • heat networks themselves can provide seasonal as well as daily storage using large water tanks, offering a simple and practical option which takes up less space than a water tank in every home. This could be important in city centres where land values are very high; and 
  • they can be integrated with Local Authority plans on waste management, air quality, urban regeneration, regional growth, fuel poverty and other social and environmental issues. This is why so many cities already have plans involving the construction of heat networks. 

Heat can also be recovered from industrial sites that generate a lot of excess heat that is usually lost to the atmosphere, or from locations where excess heat is a problem, such as underground tunnels. This heat may be able to be redirected to where it is useful, eliminating the need for further fuel combustion.

In the same way, heat networks can be used to provide cooling which is likely to be required more in the future as a result of climate change, consumer comfort and customer expectation.

The three schemes in Stoke, Nottingham and Sheffield are all funded in different ways – some using ‘City Deal’ funding, others using private sector investment or public money – but the rationale isn’t too different wherever the funds come from.

Don Leiper, Director of New Business at E.ON, said: “Building on the construction of our renewable energy plant at Blackburn Meadows, this is a substantial investment in Sheffield’s energy future and I’m delighted we’ve already been able to secure customers to our network, organisations looking to reduce their carbon footprints and benefit from a secure and locally-produced heat energy supply.

“Blackburn Meadows is already designed to be an efficient and sustainable power generation source, fuelled by waste wood and providing carbon savings the equivalent of taking 20,000 cars off the road each year. By capturing the heat and providing it for use by nearby businesses we are effectively almost doubling the efficiency of the plant and the environmental benefits to customers.”

In Stoke, a similar figure to Sheffield, around £20 million, will be spent creating the Stoke-on-Trent District Heat Network, with £5 million going to Keele University’s smart energy network demonstrator and another £5 million on boosting skills.

The drivers for this are many – it is not simply a carbon issue, nor is it solely an energy security issue. Nor is it just a revenue generating exercise or an investment in crucial business infrastructure. In fact, it’s all of these things – and more.