District Heating: Removing London from the grid

District Heating: Removing London from the grid

London has always been at the forefront of innovative changes in building design and city-scaping in the UK – if not the world!

In keeping with the capital’s position as the centre of invention and innovation, recent legislation from the Greater London Authority (GLA) ensures that the energy sector of London is also charging ahead in terms of establishing renewable energy across the city, and in mitigating fossil fuel consumption. In 2013 there were 970 district heating schemes across London and former Mayor, Boris Johnson, stated his target was to achieve 25% of London’s energy supply through decentralised energy sources by 2025.

The GLA has set up a scheme entitled the Climate Change Mitigation and Energy Strategy (CCME), which aims to localise renewable energy in order to combat environmental issues and fuel poverty in London, by taking the city’s energy off the grid one district at a time.

Combined Heat and Power (CHP) can be utilised very effectively in densely populated areas to make fuel consumption up to 90% more efficient than it is currently, which could help to reduce London’s carbon footprint dramatically over the next few years. The combination of CHP and district heating is arguably the easiest and most cost-effective way to reduce carbon emissions throughout London.

There are three scales of decentralised energy: single development, multi-development and area-wide. The quickest changes for the environmental health of London would come from the larger scale renewable schemes, but individual buildings’ energy emissions are equally important to improve to make real change.

Fuel poverty is still a very real concern in London and traditional centralised heating has fluctuating costs that some, particularly the elderly or underprivileged are unable to afford. District heating can help to combat the problem of fuel poverty by decentralising energy and making it renewable, which should help ensure long term price stability. District heating is also metered, so that each individual residence only pays for what they use.

Not only is decentralised heating more economically viable than centralised heating, but it is more environmentally sound, with reduced CO₂ emissions making it the most energy efficient way of heating buildings. Of all the energy used across London, the biggest culprit of energy wastage is heating. A 2013 report by Buro Happold found that there is enough heat wasted in London alone to meet 70% of the city’s heating needs. If all the heat that is wasted were captured and put into district heating it would clearly make a significant difference to fuel bills, fuel poverty, carbon emissions and fuel security.

A third of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions come from energy used for heating buildings, which is both unsustainable and bad for the economy. Changes must be made to combat this needless squandering of the Earth’s natural resources, before it is too late.

Decentralised energy is ‘low and zero carbon power for heat generated and delivered within London, which will be designed to comply with technological advances of the future, and form the basis of an integrated renewable energy system across London.

The most effective way of implementing low carbon heating would be to install energy efficient, low mass, low water content heating systems which could impact dramatically on London’s energy output. Low H₂O heating solutions use just a tenth of the water and weight of more traditional steel panel radiators meaning faster response times when heating a room, better comfort control which consumes less energy and reduces CO₂ emissions.

Eventually, it is feasible to believe that London could be taken completely off the grid, and generate its own energy in an ecologically sound way. The only way that this could happen is to make the change from centralised to district heating, one borough at a time, in order to reduce London’s carbon footprint. This will then set a sustainable example for the rest of the country to follow. Outside the capital, Sheffield, Leicester, Nottingham and Bristol are also already investing in district heating. Speaking to the Guardian newspaper, Bristol’s Assistant Mayor, Gus Hoyt, discussed the development of infrastructure around Bristol Temple Meads railway station as “another way to entice people to Bristol. Straight away we can say that their heating bills will be lower if they are connected to our district heating scheme”.

Delivering cost-effective, renewable energy to the capital and beyond – district heating is the future.