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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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Randy Cambell knows: sometimes halfway is worse than nothing at all.

Randy Cambell knows: sometimes halfway is worse than nothing at all.

The Heat Network Code of Practice is likely to become intertwined with building regs. In particular, heat networks that comply with the Code could be treated more favourably under SAP.

But as I highlighted in the last post, we’ve got a problem: there’s currently no such thing as a Code-compliant heat network. For SAP to reference the Code, some form of Code compliance regime will be required.

DECC has said it wants to keep any such regime light touch, which seems reasonable. But, as I hope to describe in this post, a light touch regime could greatly damage the heat market. In other words, the wrong compliance regime would be worse than no regime at all.

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Heat networks finished 2015 on a high. In a year in which the Government hammered almost every other part of the low carbon sector, heat networks not only escaped harm, they unexpectedly received a £300m boost in November’s Comprehensive Spending Review. And there may even be further support if projects can secure a share of new innovation funding at DECC.

So you might expect this market to rapidly pick up speed. But funding is only part of the picture. Even more important is policy, because just like a species is shaped by its ecosystem, heat networks are shaped by their policy landscape.

This landscape can be defined by three key features: the CIBSE Code of Practice, the Heat Trust rules and SAP. Influential as they may be, these three features aren’t set in stone. Far from it. All three will undergo major changes in 2016, with so much potential to shake up the market that it’s tough to predict how projects will look (commercially, technically, legally) a year from now.

What might these upcoming changes mean for projects, practitioners and operators?

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For consultants, energy reports for planning are fantastic: a bit of SAP, a few benchmarks, some spreadsheet magic, and hey presto you’re sending an invoice. But the contents of the energy report can have huge implications, in some cases committing the scheme to commercially or legally impossible strategies, causing delays and increasing costs later in the programme. Here are a couple of examples:

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I’ve written about this before but in light of the Low Carbon Transition Plan launched last week,  it’s worth reiterating:

It’s increasingly clear that carbon reduction through on site measures will be set at 70% of regulated emissions. Sounds quite high. But in reality this equates to just 44% of total emissions – less than half of the reduction originally required under the Zero Carbon definition!

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new SAP

Ok, here we go! The draft version of the new SAP is out.

This is it – the document that could assist or sabotage the whole move to low carbon homes. Have they sorted out the major issues? I almost can’t bear to look.

[update 14/5: No, they haven’t. All the more reason to respond to the consultation.]

Let’s get stuck in.

Hat tip to Nick Devlin.

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I just received a very interesting comment from a “simple builder” about the regulatory maze. There are some interesting points in there. I don’t agree with all of them but I wanted to draw attention to them just the same:

Sorry guys I just have to speak out.

I speak as a simple Builder, we are a practical breed, not scientists, but we are being treated with rafts of legislation written by lunatics…

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In a blog post earlier this month, Mark Brinkley wrote that the zero carbon agenda is dependent on private wire networks, which he contends are anti-competitive. While I have a lot of respect for Mark, in this case his arguments aren’t valid. Here’s why.

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From the zero carbon consultation, you can see that CLG has accepted that we need to resolve the onsite / offsite question. They have also moved away from the requirement for private wire networks or “direct connections” between generators and homes since it caused all sorts of problems.

So positive moves from CLG, but there is still a huge amount of confusion over what onsite and offsite actually mean. This is a crucial issue since only onsite energy will count towards carbon compliance, while offsite energy is only likely to count as an allowable solution.

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In case you don’t fancy wading through it, this is a brief summary of the zero carbon consultation doc. While nothing will be finalised until next summer (after they’ve ruminated over the responses), the document does give some insight into the way CLG is leaning on some issues.

At the core of the document is the government’s preferred framework for reaching zero carbon. In order of priority:

  1. A minimum standard of energy efficiency will be required.
  2. A minimum carbon reduction should be achieved through a combination of energy efficiency, onsite low and zero carbon (LZC) technologies, and directly connected heat. This is referred to as achieving carbon compliance.
  3. Any remaining emissions should be dealt with using allowable solutions, including offsite energy.

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