The National Trust is continuing its march towards self-sufficient energy generation, having produced 12% of its heat from on-site renewable energy sources in 2016 – four years ahead of Britain’s national renewable heat targets. The British conservation organisation has also drastically reduced its reliance on oil consumption, with a 50% drop on 2009 levels, as of December 2016.
Illustrating the potential role of combined heat and power in balancing variable renewables an arms-length council-owed district heating company in Gateshead is set to boost its projected life-time income by nearly £1 million after signing up to a power demand-response scheme run by Flextricity based in Edinburgh. The Gateshead District Energy Scheme, which is currently being commissioned, and will be fully operational by mid-2017, has become part of Flexitricity’s demand response network netting the company more than £60,000 per year over the next 15 years for smoothing out peaks and troughs in national electricity demand.
Barrow Green Gas (BGG) has ‘launched’ biomethane into the UK national gas network for a record 33 biomethane producers – more than any other gas shipper in Great Britain – as new regulatory environmental reporting alongside financial reporting requirements impacts large corporate. Every month more green gas comes available via BGG as new biomethane producers connect to the grid and existing ones produce increasing amounts. Tim Davis, Managing Director, BGG, said: “2016 is the year where we have seen green gas really take off with increasing numbers of producers injecting green gas into the existing gas grid. This year we saw our gas being supplied to some of the UK’s leading renewable energy suppliers, with Good Energy and Green Energy UK offering green gas to customers. We are also supplying CNG Fuels with green gas as a transport fuel that is being used by Waitrose, John Lewis, Argos and Brit European – a great alternative to diesel.” The UK has the fastest growing green gas market in the world and dedicated biomethane shipper, BGG, is the largest shipper of biomethane. In addition, BGG markets green gas certificates (GGCs), the value of which is now considerably increased for companies when reporting their emissions.
Renewable energy technology that draws heat from the sea is proving effective in keeping one of Orkney’s newest buildings warm. The Warehouse Buildings – Orkney Islands Council’s multi-purpose facility in Stromness – are the first in the islands to be fitted with a sea-source heat pump. This uses warmth absorbed from Stromness harbour to provide heating for the buildings. Monitoring over a 12-month period shows this to be a cost-effective choice for the offices, which house the town’s library and customer services team, and provides a work base for staff from a variety of council services.
Sunamp are an amazing company, they produce batteries that store heat, charged by solar panels. Sunamp is preparing a pioneering project to transport heat from a waste treatment plant to the homes and businesses of Bristol – by barge. The company is in the process of applying to Innovate UK for funding for the novel scheme, which will see Sunamp extract heat from a waste processing plant in Avonmouth, store it in shipping containers and transport it by barge up the River Avon for use in Bristol’s district heating system.
A new NHS sustainability report reveals the health service could save in excess of £26m a year by increasing adoption of combined heat and power (CHP) technology. The Securing Heathy Returns Report, which analyses the financial value of key sustainability measures in the NHS, states that CHP provides the biggest energy-saving opportunity – amounting to £26.4m a year. That’s enough to fund the salaries of more than 1,200 newly-qualified registered nurses. The report, published by the Sustainable Development Unit (SDU) for NHS England and Public Health England, analyses 35 proven measures that it says could achieve a total of £400m of cost savings and reduce carbon emissions by a million tonnes every year by 2020. These interventions were selected because they are supported by robust data and evidence to enable analysis and scaling. Of the 18 energy-saving measures covered in the report, CHP provides the highest annual potential cost savings (£26.4m), followed by staff energy awareness and behaviour change (£21.5m); high-efficiency lighting (£7.2m); and reducing temperature set points by one degree Celsius (£6.2m).
Hundreds of thousands of homes are to be heated using warmth generated by industrial machinery, geothermal energy and even Tube trains, under government-backed plans for a major expansion of “heat networks”. More than a third of local authorities in England and Wales are now working on new schemes that transport heat from one source through pipes to hundreds of homes or businesses, according to figures obtained by The Daily Telegraph. About four in five homes are currently heated by gas-fired boilers but they will have to be replaced by greener forms of heating if Britain is to hit its climate change targets, which require carbon emissions to be slashed by 2050. Heat networks – effectively giant central-heating systems, which can supply entire neighbourhoods – are seen as one way of achieving this. They use insulated pipes to transport hot water or steam to homes, where it warms up the mains water supply through a “heat exchanger” unit. Ministers set up a “heat network delivery unit” in 2013 to award funding for the development of new schemes, and this week are due to announce the 38 councils that have won the latest £2.8m tranche to work on feasibility studies. This will bring the total number of local authorities working on such plans to 131, out of the 381 in England and Wales, with more than 200 individual projects in the offing. Many networks use heat produced by burning gas to generate power in “combined heat and power” plants. Although not zero-carbon, they are significantly more energy-efficient than letting the heat go to waste, and can offer a cheaper source of heat than everyone using individual domestic boilers.
Theresa May’s delay in giving final approval to Hinkley also gives us a chance to look more holistically at future energy policy. With around 4.5 million UK households suffering from fuel poverty and over 30% of greenhouse gas emissions attributable to heat, even with 100% renewable electricity we would still need to do a lot more to cut greenhouse gas emissions from the heat sector to meet climate targets. In Aberdeen councillors have just unanimously agreed to an £11m investment to expand the City’s district heating network — offering 350 more homes the chance to save on their energy bills. Aberdeen Heat and Power (AHP) has grown substantially since it began in 2002 and currently provides heat for 2,361 flats in 33 multi-story blocks, two sheltered housing blocks and 13 public buildings. District heating networks can be fed with heat from a range of sources from gas-fired and biomass-fired Combined Heat and Power (CHP) stations which also generate electricity, to deep boreholes which extract geothermal heat from underground. In Glasgow heat is being captured from trapped water in old flooded coal mines via heat pumps. In Lerwick Shetland Heat and Power is hoping to extend its heat network by installing a 2MW heat pump made by Star Renewables in Glasgow to abstract heat from Lerwick Harbour. In the London Borough of Newham there are plans to harness the energy from ‘fatbergs’, the bus-size balls of grease which cost Thames Water an estimated £1 million a month to remove from its sewers. Despite enthusiastic support for energy storage technology both sides of the political spectrum –including The Telegraph right – the government is yet to be convinced we can cope with a high percentage of intermittent renewables. This is where CHP-district heating networks could be crucial. In Germany, for instance, as wind and solar PV take on a greater proportion of total electricity production, CHP plants are expected to take on the role of providing more flexible electricity generation. At the moment CHP plants focus on meeting the demand for heat. Electricity production is seen as a useful by-product. But in future the focus will switch to providing electricity when the output from wind and solar is low. On the other hand district heating systems could absorb large quantities of surplus electricity by using heat pumps to heat water which can be stored for use later.
It has been four years since the Stratford site’s transformation from East London wilderness to the host of London’s 2012 Olympic triumph was complete. But for the UK chief executive of the energy company which powered the Games, the area is a blueprint for a new kind of energy system which is only just beginning to emerge. Engie is not a household name but the £32bn French company, formerly known as GDF Suez, is one of the largest power generators in the UK and stands shoulder to shoulder with the Big Six in the business energy supply market. In winning the bid to power the London Olympic Park the company grasped the opportunity to turn its energy supply business on its head and create a model which is being quietly rolled out across the UK from Whitehall to Leeds. The site includes two energy centres and a network of over 11 miles of pipe work which control a small fleet of biomass boilers, combined heat and power plants and water storage units. Mr Petrie explains that biomass provides the steady baseload power needed throughout the day by burning waste wood sourced from UK landscapers at 650 degrees. To meet energy demand over peak demand periods the energy can also be stored in hot water tanks which are topped up using combined and heat and power boilers which run on gas. As a result the Olympic Park is able to generate 75pc of its own energy with carbon emissions 20pc lower than the rest of the UK while using smart technology to keep costs low. It’s a feat Government can currently only dream of achieving at a national level as it grapples with the eye-watering economics of supporting large-scale low-carbon projects and the complexity of shifting households on to smart energy meters. For Engie the shift away from its past as conventional energy behemoth has only just begun. “The first thing is to connect the network across East London. The second is to become more and more involved with the end-user through intelligent systems which can monitor their useage and help customers to optimise their energy use,” Mr Petrie says “Maybe in 10 to 20 years we could be selling something else aside from just energy.”
Yesterday we launched The Green Gas Book.- a series of essays exploring the development of “green gas” (or more accurately, “green gases”), written by experts in the field. This book looks at the range of those green gases – biomethane, hydrogen, bio-substitute natural gas (bioSNG) and biopropane – their uses, benefits and potential challenges in their application. While no one of these green gases is the perfect solution, we may think of them as “10% solutions,” which, together with developments such as district heating schemes, would go a long way towards helping us decarbonise the heat sector. This book was commissioned by Labour’s frontbench energy team and has been produced in co-ordination with the PLP’s energy and climate change committee. We hope that it can serve as an important contribution to policy discussion.