The UK has decided to significantly reduce carbon emissions by replacing common gas boilers with more sustainable district heating options. This change in the heat infrastructure opens up opportunities for Nordic companies that can fill the lack of local expertise in this area.
The ongoing efforts to reduce carbon emissions makes the UK market one of the fastest growing distribution areas for heat networks. Approximately half of the carbon emissions (47 %) come from homes heated with gas boilers. The plan is to reduce this number by connecting more households to sustainable and energy-efficient district heating.
The aim is to build 200 new heat networks in the UK by 2021 and to close all coal-based power plants by 2025. Furthermore, the Committee on Climate Change estimates that heat networks could deliver up to 18 % of the UK’s heating demand by 2030, which is a significant rise from the current level of 2 %.
To achieve this, the UK government has committed £320 million to deliver heat networks by 2021. This will unlock up to £2 billion investments in new heat network infrastructure in towns and cities across the country, thus delivering lower carbon and affordable heat.
Currently, the UK heating market is dominated by low-cost natural gas and a historical legacy of heat boilers. However, the current efforts are already showing successful examples of district heating schemes around the country.
Some of the key drivers to this change come from environmental awareness as the UK aims to reduce carbon emissions by 57 % by 2030, compared to 1990 levels. With district heating and cooling systems renewable energy sources can be used more sustainably.
The UK is increasingly exploring the use of biomass and biogas fuelled boilers and CHP plants. This includes energy from waste facilities, heat pumps, geothermal sources and urban sources of recovered heat.
With over 280 heat network projects at varying stages of development across the UK, there will be significant investments and supply chain opportunities over the next eight years. The lack of a district heating legacy in the UK means that existing UK companies may not have sufficient contractors and suppliers to meet the demand.
Thus, the UK is looking to the Nordics for the necessary expertise to make the district heating projects possible:
Engineering design, legal and financial consultants.
Heat network developers and operators.
Energy centre building construction and pipework civil engineering.
Distribution infrastructure – pipe manufacturing and installation.
Generation (heating, cooling and electricity) plants.
Control systems to develop smarter system controls and metering.
Retail and customer interface.
The Nordic countries are particularly favoured as they have a long tradition of district heating. For example, 49 % of the non-industrial heat demand in Finland is provided by heat networks – compared to only 2 % in the UK.
Finnish companies are seen as frontrunners of recycled district heating and the bio economy, with very strong know how of all aspects of the value network. Additionally, Finnish companies can compete with their intelligent energy systems that embed new technology into district heating systems in order to optimise energy usage as a part of the smart city agenda.