Tapping into the potential for more low-carbon heat from energy recovery

Charlotte Rule, Climate and Energy Policy Advisor, Mar 10, 2022

The ESA is pleased to launch a new tool that aims to foster greater collaboration between Energy-from-Waste (EfW) operators and heat network developers, with the goal of delivering more low-carbon heat from EfW to district heating networks in future – contributing towards the UK’s net-zero goals and addressing the significant challenges of decarbonising the way we heat homes and buildings.

The Heat Network Directory was announced earlier by Business and Energy Minister Lord Callanan at the Energy-from-Waste (EfW) Conference and is supported by both BEIS and the Association for Decentralised Energy (ADE). 

It provides, free of charge, a directory of our members’ EfW facilities and specifications for heat-offtake that we hope will become among the first points of reference for heat network developers assessing options for future projects. The development of this directory follows a workshop between various stakeholders across both industries at which access to information was identified as an early barrier in the process. The directory can be accessed here
The utilisation of EfW heat is an essential piece of the decarbonisation puzzle for the waste sector and the United Kingdom, and research from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) showed that for the UK to achieve its net zero commitments, 18% of the UK’s heat supply will have to be provided by heat networks (as opposed to local heating for individual buildings), which is a far cry from the current 3% figure. 
Heat offtake from EfW facilities will be a crucial contributor to the expansion of these low-carbon heat networks, and this is reiterated in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Heat and Building Strategy, and more recently, the Greater London Authority Net Zero analysis for the City of London.  
To understand the opportunities for increasing the use of heat networks across the UK, BEIS published a study in late 2021 that used a heat demand modelling technique to determine the economic potential of heat networks. Over the coming year, as part of our wider Net-Zero work, the ESA hopes to apply this same demand-based modelling technique to examine the economic potential of developing a range of networks that utilise EfW heat. 
We will focus on specific EfW case studies across the UK with the expectation that the use of site-specific granular data will provide a tailored business case for the development of certain heat networks.  The results of this research, coupled with our ESA Heat Network Directory, will support ongoing discussions with Government in the development of EfW heat networks and promote the potential of heat networks in the decarbonisation of the sector and the wider UK economy.