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Archive for the ‘energy’ Category

This blog was originally posted on networks.online.

Any heat network operator or customer will tell you that heat losses matter – a lot.

Losses that go unchecked can easily double the cost of heat on the network. But while everyone agrees it’s hugely important to limit losses, the way we talk about heat loss is all wrong. And heat network performance is suffering as a result.

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This post originally appeared on the CIBSE blog.

New buildings in the UK consume far more energy than intended by their designers – up to 10 times more according to an Innovate UK study. This performance gap doesn’t arise because we lack technology. Studies by the UKGBC and others conclude that it’s the result of failings throughout the project lifecycle, from concept to handover.

Performance gaps may arise because clients are unclear about what they want; project teams don’t understand the impact of their design choices; contractors substitute products and materials on the fly and then install them poorly; or quality assurance is lax, with employers’ agents either blind to the problems or willing to let shoddy work escape their net.

There’s no doubt about it – we’ve got trouble right here in the UK building industry. But innovation on its own won’t solve the problem. The Internet of Things isn’t coming to the rescue. Because the performance gap isn’t a technology problem – it’s a problem of people, information and accountability.

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In the previous post, I described the characteristics we’d want to see in a competitive heat market. In short, we want many heat networks of varying sizes to function as markets that are fast, efficient, accessible, cheap and decentralised. I also tried to show that simply copying the electricity market for heat is a bad idea.

So what model should we adopt? In this post, I propose a new model based on blockchains, the technical innovation that underpins cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ether.

 

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Here’s a presentation I did at this year’s Utility Week Live about using data to improve the performance of heat networks. In it, I talk about why networks are often poorly delivered and operated and what can be done to put them right. Incidentally, I was also pretty ill and hopped up on flu meds but I think I got away with it.

UWL

 

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Final energy

UK Energy by End Use

Nearly all of the primary energy we use in the UK is in the form of  coal, oil and gas. This energy is the source of almost all our emissions – emissions which must be slashed to reduce the risk of catastrophic climate change.

When considering this challenge, rather than look at the primary energy, it’s useful to look at what we use the energy for.

Given the recent press about “keeping the lights on” you might think most of our energy is for generating electricity for lighting and appliances. But you’d be wrong. Using DECC’s energy consumption statistics for the UK, I put together the pie chart above to illustrate.

The result? We mainly use energy for just two things: heat and transport. In other words, almost all the energy we use is for warming things up or moving things around. And only a tiny proportion is for lighting.

So the next time you hear the word energy, don’t think electricity. Don’t even think oil and gas. Think heat and transport – this is where we’ve got to innovate to meet our carbon targets.

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In the previous post, I highlighted where innovation is taking place in the UK district heating market. In this post, I’d like to flag up some important areas where innovation isn’t happening – but really should be. Below are a few of the biggest blocks in the market, where change is desperately needed but so far not forthcoming.

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I’ve been invited to do a short talk at a UK Trade and Industry event for investors in heat networks, giving an overview of innovation in the sector. This gives me an excuse to do some research and summarise it in this post – and also an opportunity to ask readers what I’ve missed.

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