Why don’t we do district heating in the UK?
I was giving a presentation on Sustainable Construction on Friday to a group of Local Authority energy managers. I mentioned Kalundborg in Denmark where the entire town is heated using ‘waste’ heat from the local coal fired power station. From the conversation afterwards it turned out that many towns in the North East of England used to have district heating, but that most had be ripped out, not because of cost or performance, but because people just preferred to have their own central heating system. This is a real shame as the heat lost from our electricity generation almost exactly matches the heat demand from domestic homes, which in turn is responsible for a whopping 28% of the country’s carbon footprint.
This prejudice seems to be continuing. I’ve just been commissioned to do a scoping study for using waste heat, but the client has specified that I exclude domestic developments because they’ve drawn a complete blank so far. Only in Southampton does a district heating system using a combination of geothermal energy and combined heat and power seem to have taken off in recent years.
I can only assume the prejudice is based on security of supply. But, hold on, in my house there’s only one gas connection and combi boiler – if that goes down we’re cold. In district heating systems there’s a back-up boiler, and if that fails, we’d no worse off than with the gas. Plus hot water arriving in our house would always be safer than gas. Given the opportunity, I’d sign up in a flash!
So why don’t we do district heating?