Help for communities to map out low-carbon future

An electricity distributor is launching a first-of-its-kind project to help local communities map out their Net Zero carbon future at street level.

UK Power Networks’ Heat Street project will take a data-driven look into the future to help local authorities in London, the south and east of England plan systems to cater for a significant rise in low-carbon heating and energy efficiency measures, like better insulation. 

Now the network operator will engage with property owners, local councils, property developers, businesses, academics and consumer groups to work out how specific local areas can best remove carbon from one of the country’s biggest emitters – heating.

UK Power Networks’ engineers will analyse energy efficiency trends and carry out heat zoning assessments by combining information about the properties, homes and socio-economics of each area. This will enable engineers and strategists to create custom forecasts to identify the most efficient pathway to zero carbon heating, and even produce bespoke plans for specific local areas.

The project will consider a broad range of low carbon heating alternatives, including switching from gas boilers to electric heat pumps, installing cavity wall insulation, switching to another type of heating supply, or combinations of all. For the first time, Heat Street will create a model for forecasting uptake of the different technologies that can be followed by other parts of the UK.

Heat zoning assessments will be based on the independent Energy Systems Catapult recommendations, in which specific areas are ‘zoned’ depending on their best type of Net Zero pathway. For example, areas with a high number of flats are less suitable for heat pumps but will benefit from heat networks, or rural villages that are not connected to the gas network may be more likely to switch to heat pumps. Efforts to decarbonise heating could then be focused where the benefits can be most efficiently unlocked for customers.

This approach is intended to help local authorities and private industry target policy and investment to enable the country to achieve Net Zero.

Heating accounts for about a third of UK carbon emissions – almost 120 million tonnes of CO2according to official estimates. With the government’s legally binding commitment to net zero emissions by 2050 approaching, equipping the country with affordable, low-carbon heating remains a major challenge. 

Ian Cameron, head of customer services and innovation at UK Power Networks, said: “We all know why we need to rapidly decarbonise heating - this project is about working out the ‘how’. We’re excited to be getting out there and collaborate to decarbonise heat, bringing together people from all backgrounds to create a local street level map of net zero heating pathways by 2050.”

Charlotte Owen, policy manager at The Association for Decentralised Energy, said: “This project will help demonstrate the opportunities presented by a local, zoned approach to heat decarbonisation. It will provide real examples of how we can strategically decarbonise our homes and buildings, while recognising that different local areas will take different pathways to net zero.”

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