Archive for the ‘utilities’ Category

In the previous post, I suggested that creating a competitive heat market could be the best way to deliver value for customers. This would involve breaking up heat network “verticals” into their constituent parts (generation, distribution and supply) with genuine competition in each segment.

Sounds lovely, but there are plenty of devils in the detail. For example, how do you match supply and demand across multiple parties in real time? What happens if a supplier requires more or less heat than they’ve contracted for? What if a generator puts more or less heat into the network than was planned?

To help us deal with these devils, could the electricity market serve as a model for heat?



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pllWith the election looming, it’s time to nail your colours to the mast. Ain’t no purdah round here, so here’s my contribution…

If I were Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, my mission would be to put us firmly on the path to zero carbon heat and electricity. Only by doing this will we meet our legally binding promise to decarbonise the UK economy and mitigate the worst effects of climate change.

As you’ll see, I also wouldn’t get too hung up on where my remit officially stopped.

To get back on the path, we’ll need to radically improve energy efficiency, develop our ability to shift electricity demand, enable renewables to meet the bulk of our electricity requirements, and rapidly develop our district heating market.

First: ramp up energy efficiency


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Heat network at Sønderby – images from linked design guide


When writing a recent post about the low temperature DH network at Lystrup, I contacted the author of the related technical report, Jan Thorsen. In Jan’s response he kindly included a copy of Guidelines for Low-Temperature District Heating (PDF).

This guide is essential reading for designers and operators of DH systems. It shows how DH with flow temperatures of around 55 and return temps of around 25 (also called “fourth generation” or “4GDH”) can be used to serve high efficiency homes as well as buildings on low heat density networks.

At this point you might say, hang on a minute – what are we doing considering 4GDH when we struggle to deliver decent 3rd generation (70/40) networks in the UK? And I’d say you’ve got a point. In fact, I spent a depressingly large chunk of last week trying to help salvage the efficiency of another new network that is horrendously oversized and was probably doomed to low efficiency before it even left the drawing board. So I’m sympathetic with the view that UK engineers need to get our houses in order before moving onto the cutting edge stuff.

But looking ahead to the strategies employed in more advanced, lower temperature systems helps to highlight the design principles that we should be focusing on, even on today’s projects in the UK.


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The EED: genuinely dangerous or just misunderstood?

Inside Housing published an article last week about the “significant costs” that will be imposed on heat network operators (HNOs) as they are forced to install heat meters under new regulations that come into force next month.

Designed to grab the attention of housing associations, the article focuses on the costs of complying with the EU Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) – and it completely ignores the key benefits: huge improvements in energy efficiency, cost savings for DH customers and greater transparency in how these networks are performing.

While I think the Inside Housing article completely lacked balance, I agree that a wakeup call is overdue. A few organisations are planning for the EED but most don’t even know it’s coming. People need to get informed, and fast – because the implications for operators and consumers of district heat are huge.


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This is number 7 in a series on district heating. Here’s where to find  1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.

Your district heating network might be perfectly designed, but if it’s not installed and commissioned right it is doomed to fail, potentially costing you and your tenants a huge amount of money. In this post, we’ll talk about how to get DH install and commissioning right.


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This is the second post in a series on DH. The first can be found here.

As I mentioned in my previous post, cost of heat on DH schemes is directly tied to system efficiency. The more efficient the system, the less fuel is needed to meet the heat requirements of the customers. And of course the reverse is also true: lower efficiency means higher cost of heat. This relationship between efficiency and cost is hugely important: it’s real cash, coming from residents to pay their heating bills and from the landlord or ESCO to pay the fuel bill.

In fact, I’d go as far as saying that efficiency is the single most important issue for DH schemes. This post explains why efficiency matters so much.



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District heating (DH) has become a common strategy for new developments to reduce carbon in order to satisfy planners and meet building regs. But despite its prevalence, in the UK we frequently get district heating wrong.

Most of what we do at work relates to DH in one way or another. At Insite we provide meter reading and customer care to several thousand people on district heating schemes. We take residents’ calls, help clients set tariffs and assess efficiency data, among other things. At Fontenergy (one of Insite’s two parent companies) we’ve project managed the design and install of DH networks and we operate centralised plant for ourselves and others. In our efforts to get DH right, we once even imported one of the best DH contractors from Denmark and worked with them to install a network in North London.

When it’s done right, DH is a cost-effective strategy for delivering low carbon heat. What’s more, it’s an essential technology for decarbonising heat in the UK (mainly because relying entirely on the theoretical decarbonisation of the grid in order to electrify heat is nuts, but that’s another post). The reality is we need DH, but often we don’t do it right.


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