Reaching the "Heat on date" in a Heat Network project is a key date in their development and typically is the first day that low carbon heating is provided to the domestic or commercial customer.  But what actually are Heat Networks and why are they important?  This is the second in our series of Heat Network articles.

Heat Networks?

A Heat Network is a system of highly insulated pipes that move heat typically in the form of hot water (or steam) from heat generation sources to a householder or business for heating purposes.  It differs from the conventional approach to heating where fuel (typically gas) is supplied to each individual property for on-site heat generation.

With a Heat Network the heat generation source may vary.  In many cases, gas is used as the fuel to run a CHP plant – in the short term this is regarded as a cost-efficient and resource-efficient option. Other "greener" options include biomass, geothermal, and waste heat from an industrial process (like an energy from waste plant).

They can be small schemes designed to serve the needs of 2 or more blocks of flats, new networks developed as part of major housing/regeneration project, to major city scale projects which may combine/integrate several smaller networks in order to serve the heat needs of a major locality.  City scale networks are common in Europe, and whilst we have some pretty large Heat Networks in the UK (e.g. in Sheffield and Nottingham) - a city scale project has yet to be delivered.

Why are they important? 

Unsurprisingly, heat is the main reason we use energy in the UK.   The majority of that heat is produced by burning fossil fuels (typically gas which counts for about 80%) and as a result heat generation is a major contributor to our greenhouse gas emissions.

Generating heat in an efficient way (for example, through small centralised heat generation stations, and energy installations that create both electricity and heat) and capturing waste heat for use in our home and businesses will make a major difference in becoming a low carbon society.

Due the flexibility of the heat sources, Heat Networks can be developed around different energy technologies and can be located in multiple locations.  This will encourage the development of smaller renewable energy installations. For example, the Southampton Heat Network draws heat from a geothermal well, as well heat from CHP plants across the city.

However, from a local authority perspective it's not just about becoming energy efficient and the low carbon agenda.  Heat Networks can also:

  • be integrated into plans for urban growth and economic regeneration;
  • help address fuel poverty and tackle social deprivation;
  • provide energy security and reduce dependency on fossil fuels;
  • help in urban or densely populated areas where space is a premium
  • reduce the energy costs for a local authority; and
  • be the source of a future revenue stream.

We are advising both the public and privates sectors on Heat Network projects all over the UK.  There is no "one" commercial driver for a project, and typically a combination of factors are resulting in new schemes being developed or an existing Heat Network being extended. 

If you would like to know more register for our Heat Alert articles by sending an email to, and attend Heat Networks Seminar in our London office on Tuesday 2 June 2015: Heat Networks – A toolkit for assembly.