Combined Heat & Power

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Energy Efficiency

Heat Networks

ADE Heat Networks Sector Conference | Write up & Resources

13 May 2020

The ADE's Heat Networks Sector conference took place on Tuesday 5 May.

Our second fully online event, the conference attracted over 120 attendees, who heard from a range of speakers from across the sector discussing how we can scale up the contribution of heat networks to the UK energy system.

The conference was opened by ADE Deputy Director, Joanne Wade, who introduced and chaired the first panel session, on the future of heat network regulation and industry's offer to Government. Speakers were:

  • Dan McGrail (Siemens/  Chair of Heat Networks Industry Council)
  • John Saunders (BEIS Heat Networks)
  • Gareth Fenney (Scottish Government)

Our second panel explored the growth of waste heat, and the challenges and opportunities of scaling up its contribution. Chaired by ADE Head of Policy, Caroline Bragg, we heard from:

  • Sandy Abrahams (Lux Nova)
  • Richard Johnson (Eneteq/ Environmental Services Association)
  • James Beal (DIT)
  • Daniel Awater (Vattenfall)

Alben Leiper, Senior Engineer at Arup, then shared his reflections on the heat networks market, and how recent successes show that scaling up, from currently contributing 2% of the country's heat to 20% by 2050, is possible

After a short beak, the final panel session was chaired by ADE Heat Policy Manager Charlotte Owen. Speakers discussed how we can use strategic planning to drive a just transition and ensure security of supply:

  • Gillian Cooper (Citizens Advice)
  • Paul Barker (Bristol City Council)
  • Zain Habib (UKPN)
  • Lorna Millington (Cadent)

The closing keynote was gievn by George Day of Energy Systems Catapult, who spoke on the importance of retrofit in the growth of the heat networks sector, and the decarbonisation of heat more widely.

The conference ended with a short address from ADE Directo Ian Calvert.

We would like to thank Arup, for supporting us in delivering this event, and all of our fantastic speakers for their contributions. Resources from the event can be found below.

Event Recording

Watch the event recording here.

Password: 2z.+$0N1

Audience Questions

The audience provided some excellent questions and discussion points during the conference. Our speakers have gone on to answer some we didn't have time to cover live. Responses to questions from BEIS are available to download at the bottom of this page:

Q: How feasible and cost effective at scale is the production of unconventional natural gas and using existing boilers, in order to solve for (a) least disruption to the home, and (b) least local disruption?

Use of Biomethane and potentially BioSNG are at different stages of development, the volumes produced by Biomethane are not at levels that can make an impact on domestic heat. But the two combined give rise to around levels of gas production that can meet about 1/3 of domestic heat with current usage. The ENA pathways report identified in its balanced scenario a saving to the UK of utilising both hydrogen and biogases to feed the UK’s heat needs at the lowest overall cost of conversion. - Lorna Millington, Cadent

Q: With their net zero carbon ambition, what has Bristol assumed in terms of a time frame and cost for the national or local electricicty grid decarbonising?

We have assumed that the electricity grid has been decarbonised by 2030. This is obviously a large assumption and any delay to this would obviously impact on Bristol achieving net zero. However, it is also one (of many) assumptions where the Local Authority has no or very limited control over. - Paul Barker, Bristol City Council

Q: Bristol's approach is really interesting. Shouldn't we just plan to mothball gas networks by a set date (2030?) as a way to fast track a transition away from fossil fuels? 

Some may consider this quite a strong message to take but I think there is an argument that such a signal needs to be made if ina few years time real and tangible efforts are not made to repurpose the gas network able to supply zero carbon heat via biogas or hydrogen. - Paul Barker, Bristol City Council

Q: Will CV19 impact on the timeline for moving forward in the area of consumer protection?

Citizens Advice answer: This depends on whether the government moves forward with plans for the future of heat and energy efficiency in buildings! A focus on consumer protections must be intrinsic to plans for net zero as they aren't stand alone and should not be seen as a 'bolt on' or afterthought to net zero policy.  If we expect people to engage with these massive changes, it's essential that there are protections to give them the confidence to engage and protections if things go wrong. - Gillian Cooper, Citizens Advice

Q: In piloting novel solutions, how do we protect the customer?

Citizens Advice answer: When we pilot solutions it's essential to build in 'gold standard' consumer protections to ensure that the learnings from the trial are as effective as possible. This provides an advantage as companies can learn from and iron out any potential consumer protection issues before they become problems on a greater scale. - Gillian Cooper, Citizens Advice

Q: Are there trade-offs between consumer choice and a strategic, locally driven heat transition?

Citizens Advice: Put simply - yes. Insights from our forthcoming research on consumer choice and heat have found that, as you might expect, people focus on outcomes rather than heating systems themselves. People don’t tend to focus on these issues until they need to make a change. While household heating routines differ, consumers are all primarily looking for a warm and comfortable home, as well as instant access to hot water.  Energy costs are also a priority for many lower income households, who may sacrifice some of their comfort in an effort to bring down their bills. - Gillian Cooper, Citizens Advice

Q: Do you think that we should ensure that the future framework for heat networks should preserve the disaggregated approach used with other utilities (i.e. give consumers an opportunity to choose between different suppliers)? Do we risk a consumer backlash if we don't?

Citizens Advice answer: On this question, I'd refer back to our initial findings on choice here - as our research has shown, people are willing to make changes to help meet net zero targets, but it's the messaging and support that's crucial.  People will need access to good information, advice and support, help to make decisions and somewhere to turn to if or when things go wrong. 

 Heat networks need to offer consumers an overall proposition that is as good as or better than what they’ve previously experienced and ensure it’s delivered at an affordable price. 

 Not all essential services are delivered through competitive markets and there’s no household campaign advocating for the right to switch water companies, for example. But when services are delivered by monopoly providers, it’s important that the regulatory regime ensures they deliver both great value for money and excellent customer service. - Gillian Cooper, Citizens Advice

Download Heat Networks Conference Presentations:

Download Session 1 Presentation.

Download Session 2 Presentation.

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