Heat networks deliver heat from a central source to multiple users in a local area and can also deliver cooling. Communal heat networks heat two or more dwellings within one building (such as flats), while district heat networks connect multiple buildings. In the UK today, heat networks provide only a small proportion of heating, but the Government is exploring ways to expand the use of heat networks in future.

The UK’s net zero emission target will require a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from heating buildings to close to zero. Various sources of heat can provide the central heating source for a heat network. While most heat networks in the UK today are heated by gas, there are also alternative, lower emission heat sources such as heat pumps, waste heat from natural or industrial processes, and geothermal heat.

 Most heating in the UK today is provided by gas boilers. There are various low-carbon heating alternatives to gas that are being pursued. Heat networks are one of these possible alternatives.

Briefing on Heat Networks

Background information on heat networks is available from the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST’s) note on Heat networks (published 29 September 2020). This includes information on heat network technology, the development of new networks, user experience of heat networks, and attracting investment to heat networks.

Government announcements

Since this note was published, there have been some further Government announcements on heat networks:

Green Heat Network Fund Consultation – November 2020.

This consultation sought views on the design of a proposed Green Heat Network Fund (GHNF) scheme. The GHNF is intended to be a capital grant funding programme which aims to help new and existing heat networks move to low and zero carbon technologies. The consultation closed on 29 January 2021: the webpage states the Government are analysing the feedback.

Energy white paper – December 2020

The Energy White Paper sets out the UK Government’s plans to “address the transformation of our energy system, promoting high-skilled jobs and clean, resilient economic growth as we deliver net-zero emissions by 2050.”

The paper includes a section on Heat Networks (page 113). This includes the following commitments:

  • We are committing £122 million of funding towards a new Heat Network Transformation Programme and will implement local authority zoning by 2025.

The Heat and Buildings Strategy

A Heat and Buildings Strategy is expected to be published soon. This may set out further policy on heat networks and other types of low carbon heating. In response to a parliamentary question in March 2021 on low carbon heating policy, the Minister for Business, Energy, and Clean Growth, Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP, said:

  • The Government is planning to publish a Heat and Buildings Strategy in due course, which will set out the immediate actions we will take to reduce emissions from buildings.

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