Deep beneath the Durham countryside lie flooded, unused coal mines. The geothermally warmed water they harbour will be released to heat homes in Seaham Garden Village. In north London heat generated by the Underground will reach 800 homes. Heat networks are emerging to cover large areas in major cities, smaller towns, and rural communities across England and Wales.
By 2050 the government expects 18% of buildings to be heated by distributed, renewable and de-carbonised energy. This is the UK government’s Heat Networks Investment Project. It has spent £330m developing more than 40 networks. Tavistock are partners, with Risk Solutions, in the team evaluating it and have been doing so since 2017. We began by drawing the whole system of energy for heat with its beneficiaries, champions, consumers, energy suppliers, local councils, policy people, constructors, owners, experts, the heat market, and its investors. We spent the next five years discovering how the project has contributed to change for the key actors, communities, and parties involved.
It’s clear that climate change and environmental champions in local authorities, communities, and the energy sector are key in seizing this opportunity. And the project shows the ripple effect of widening interest in the possibility of heat networks for people who might not otherwise have considered them. It’s influencing planners in their approach to development and colleges to foster skills and knowledge for people to work with green energy.
Note: The project ends in 2023 and is succeeded by the Green Heat Networks Fund.