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Heat 2016

Decentralisation and devolution have been two of the policy buzzwords of recent years, especially in the energy sector. Local models of generation, supply and delivery have gained a huge amount of traction, from community owned solar PV farms to a growing number of district heating networks to cooperative wind farms. But what about the human face of a decentralised energy system? Who’s in charge? What skills and competencies do they need? Who holds them accountable?

We asked Emma Bridge, Chief Executive of Community Energy England, and Julian Packer, Low Carbon Investment Director at Greater Manchester Combined Authority, for their views.


Q: Where does leadership come from in a decentralised energy system?

Emma Bridge: The whole premise of a decentralised energy system is that leadership comes from the local area. To be truly effective, this needs to be a mixture of local authorities, local enterprise partnerships, local businesses and communities. Community energy has a vital role to play here. It doesn’t just enable energy to be generated at a local level, it encourages us as individuals to take greater control over how our energy is generated. It also reconnects communities with their relationship with energy, enabling them to get involved and engaged with energy efficiency and process of demand management. You need all these facets to be brought together for decentralised energy to work effectively.

Julian Packer: [At a national level], there is a clear political commitment to district heating from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) as evidenced by the Heat Network Delivery Unit (HNDU) and the Heat Networks Investment Project (HNIP). This is a real positive. Local authorities are, potentially, the key driver for the wider adoption of decentralised energy. In many local authorities, there is a strong political will to move to a low carbon future in which decentralised energy features strongly.

Q: So, do we have the leaders that we need, in the right places?

Emma Bridge: I think we still have some work to do to make sure that we have the right leaders in the right places. Energy has been so removed from day to day life that it will take a while for that connection and the wider benefits of decentralised energy to be grasped across the board. There are some fantastic examples of this starting to take place though, and I don’t think it will be long until these start to be replicated across the country.

Julian Packer: Political will [at a local level] is often not matched by executive action in terms of implementing supportive robust planning (a notable exception being London with its London Plan). Often, this is in large part due to the fear of setting planning requirements which are unattractive to developers, an understandable concern given the increasingly severe budgetary pressures being experienced by Local Authorities and their not wishing to lose a development to a nearby authority with less stringent requirements.

Q: What skills and competencies need to be developed (and among which types of people) to ensure the success of the decentralised energy revolution?

Julian Packer: Consultants need to improve the quality of the work they undertake; they lack “coal face experience”. There needs to be a standardised approach to financial modelling of schemes – too many bespoke models are produced. Likewise, streamlined procurement and contractual frameworks are required – too many projects “reinvent the wheel”. Local authorities need more embedded expertise in order to be effective, informed clients.

Q: How do we ensure that the customer is protected in a highly localised energy system?

Emma Bridge: By ensuring that they are engaged in the process. Community energy is a great example of communities “doing energy” rather than energy being done to them. Their knowledge of local people and ability to engage traditionally harder to reach consumers and, where appropriate, turn them into prosumers in unparalleled. Regulation also needs to start to put the consumers first.

Julian Packer: Obviously the Heat Trust provides protection for the private domestic customers of heat networks. Commercial customers are normally protected through contractual provisions, but again some standardisation and sharing of experience would be invaluable. The question we keep encountering is more about providing choice rather than protection. For example, housing developers will insist on providing a gas supply in order to be able to offer gas hobs! Another example: commercial developers still require the installation of gas boilers as this is insisted on by institutional investors.

 Q: What models for local energy are interesting to you at the moment? Who’s doing interesting things?

Julian Packer: Local authority owned, licensed energy supply companies as a catalyst for decentralised energy. Robin Hood Energy and Bristol Energy Company are interesting examples to follow. [Models for] local authority investment into district heating projects are an active interest too, as they provide local authorities with an opportunity to convert capital into long term revenue.

Emma Bridge: Cornwall Council is starting to really explore the role of local energy through its devolution deal. The Energy Local pilot in Wales is developing new systems so that communities can benefit from pooling and using their own generation directly through new relationships with suppliers, smart meters and technology. Plymouth Energy Community is doing excellent work linking generation with addressing fuel poverty. And in the heat world, Kingston Heights in London is using the River Thames to provide renewable heating and hot water to 137 apartments and a hotel. I think we’ll see a lot of innovative and exciting models coming through over the next couple of years with strong ties to the local community.


We will be exploring the place of decentralised energy on the local, national and global stages at this year’s Heat Conference.  The conference is hosted by the ADE and the Energy Institute and sponsored by Engie.

Join us on Wednesday 23 November at the Grand Connaught Rooms in London and make your voice heard. We have discounted tickets available for local authorities, others in the public sector, charities and SMEs. Find out more and book your place here.




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b2ap3_thumbnail_Heat-Trust-Logo-Plain.pngLast year’s Heat Conference saw the launch of Heat Trust, a stakeholder-led initiative to help consumers have confidence in the service they receive from district heating network operators.

Approaching one year on, Heat Trust now covers 45 heat networks with over 25,000 customers.

We caught up with Bindi Patel, Director of Heat Trust, to see how things have moved on in the past year:


Q: What’s been the reaction from the sector?

Really positive!  There is a growing recognition that, in order for the sector to grow, sector-wide standards are needed so that customers are protected and have confidence that their heating and hot water service is comparable to the rest of the energy market. Equivalence in the service offered to customers is important, particularly given that customers are unable to shop around.  If the market is going to benefit from public funding to reduce investment risk, it should be able to meet minimum customer service and protection standards.


Q: And what’s been the reaction from customers?

Around 40 customers have made use of the Ombudsman service so far, which is fantastic. It shows that customers are actively making use of the service that Heat Trust has put in place. Customers can, for the first time, refer their dispute to an independent third party who can look at both sides and provide recommendations based on the facts presented.


Q: How has the Trust helped to improve what the sector offers?


  • Putting customers first: Heat Trust has helped highlight the need to improve performance and to give customers a service that is equivalent to any other customer in the energy market. In particular, it has also highlighted to heat suppliers the need to tailor their service to their customers, for example, customers who need additional support or are vulnerable.
  • Helps put industry on the path towards better regulation: This is a sector that has very little, if any, standardisation in the service it provides customers. Heat Trust provides a framework towards industry standardisation that is common in other regulated market sectors.
  • Improving the sector’s reputation: By helping suppliers to adopt consistent service standards and providing access to the independent Energy Ombudsman, Heat Trust is helping to protect the reputation of the sector as well as raising the profile of district heating.
  • Increasing transparency in the sector: this is one of our key objectives and we are achieving it in a number of ways: by reporting on the volume and type of complaints that heat networks registered with Heat Trust receive; by requiring independent audits; and by providing a heat cost calculator for customers. Transparency will play a key role in building trust in the sector and improving the sector’s reputation.


Q: You mentioned the new heat cost calculator. Tell us a little about that.

It’s always been hard for customers to get a sense of the costs of district heating compared to an alternative.

The Heat Cost Calculator is the first publicly available online tool developed to provide customers living on district heat networks, with an indication of what it would cost to heat a similar sized property using an individual gas boiler.

The Calculator takes the amount of heat a customer uses (or an estimate) and factors in boiler efficiency, repair and maintenance costs, and the cost to replace a boiler at the end of its lifetime.

We are now looking to develop the Calculator further to provide a comparison with electric heating, as this is the most likely alternative for the majority of district heating network customers.

Customers deserve to know what costs go into their bills and we hope the Heat Cost Calculator will encourage industry to ensure they are communicating in a clear and transparent way.


Q: What are your plans for the next year?

We’ve made an excellent start by recruiting over 40 heat networks in our first year of operation. Next year, we will be developing the scheme further, particularly for heat networks where heat supplier agreements are not the norm. Our aim is to expand so that any heat network can register with Heat Trust if they are able to meet the standards set by the Scheme.


Q: What are the challenges you’ll be facing?

So far, we have focused on schemes where there is a heat supplier agreement between the heat supplier and the customers – it ensures there is a clear document that sets out the terms under which the heat supplier is providing heating and hot water to customers served by the heat network.

However, a lot of existing heat networks do not use heat supply agreements but specify provision of heating and hot water in a leasehold or tenancy arrangement. We will be looking at how Heat Trust can develop to include these schemes. Work is under way and we hope to report on progress soon.


Q: How can people get involved with what you’re doing?

We are keen to engage with as many stakeholders as possible. You can get in touch by email at info@heattrust.org or find us at industry events and conferences – including this year’s Heat Conference (Wednesday 23 November, London). We’re always keen to hear views and – of course – to encourage more heat network providers to sign up to the Heat Trust and give their customers the confidence they need.

Our thanks to Bindi Patel, Director, Heat Trust, congratulations on a busy first year and best of luck for the second!

If you would like to know more about Heat Trust or to access the Heat Cost Calculator, please visit www.heattrust.org.

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VitalThe Association for Decentralised Energy Awards 2016 will be presented on Wednesday 23 November at the Natural History Museum, London.

The awards showcase innovation, best practice and achievement across combined heat and power, district heating and demand response and energy services, providing an opportunity for organisations and professionals to celebrate success and collective attainment.

The Awards Judges met in September 2016 and shortlisted the following entries:

Industrial Project of the Year - sponsored by Ricardo Energy and Environment Ricardo

  • Edina UK - Welsh Power
  • ENER-G - Muntons Anaerobic Digestion Plant, Stowmarket
  • Estover Energy - Speyside Renewable Energy Partnership
  • Open Energi - Aggregate Industries
  • Viridor – Runcorn Energy from Waste

Commercial / Public Sector Project of the Year

  • Bosch Commercial and Industrial / BUPA UK – Caring for the Environment
  • Edina – Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, Glasgow
  • Edina – University of Warwick
  • ENER-G – Places for People Leisure
  • Engie – Coventry District Energy Company
  • ESP Energy – Portmeirion Biomass District Heating Scheme
  • Eurosite Power – Kingfisher Leisure Centre, Sudbury
  • London Borough of Southwark / Veolia – SELCHP

Homes and Communities Project of the Year

  • British Gas – BGreen, Oldham
  • E.ON Energy Solutions – Cranbrook and Skypark, Exeter
  • SSE – Elmsbrook, North West Bicester

Consultancy Project of the Year - sponsored by Clarke Energy Clarke Energy

  • Arup, partnering with Lux Nova Partners, Mazars and Willis Towers Watson - Heat Network Detailed Project Development Resource: Guidance on Strategic and Commercial Case
  • Carbon Alternatives – Hinksey Heat, Oxford
  • FairHeat – Octavia Housing, Elizabeth House
  • TUV SUD Wallace Whittle – Trafalgar Place, Southwark, London

Integrated Energy Award

  • Edina / E.ON – Citigen, London
  • Edina / E.ON – Myatt’s Fields, London
  • Vital Energi – Cheltenham Hospital

Innovation Award

  • ENER-G Ultra Low NOx CHP range
  • PassivSystems – Network Optimisation Through Intelligent Control Execution (NOTICE)
  • REStore – Flexpond
  • Switch2 Energy – Incontro 
  • Vital Efficienci – VitalECS (Energy Controls Solution)

Customer Engagement Award

  • Clarke Energy / Barts Health NHS Trust – Pink Power
  • Edina – Welsh Power
  • Eurosite Power – Haverhill Leisure Centre
  • Switch2 Energy – Sheffield City Council

EdinaThe Awards will be presented on Wednesday 23 November at a gala dinner at the Natural History Museum in London. A Lifetime Achievement Award – sponsored by Edina - and an overall Project of the Year Award will also be presented.

You can book tickets for the ADE Awards Dinner here.


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The Association for Decentralised Energy (ADE) and Vital Energi are delighted to announce that this year’s ADE Awards Dinner will be held at the Natural History Museum in London, marking the tenth anniversary of the Museum’s trigeneration scheme.

The ADE Awards celebrate the best in district heating, combined heat and power and demand side management. The Awards showcase real projects delivering energy cost savings, economic growth and carbon reductions to businesses and communities across the country.

“The Natural History Museum is a great place to celebrate the achievements of decentralised energy,” said Tim Rotheray, Director of the ADE. “Last year alone the Museum saved just under £1million on its energy bills through its partnership with Vital Energi and millions of visitors have benefited as a result.”

Vital Energi, sponsors of this year’s ADE Awards Dinner, are celebrating ten years working with the Natural History Museum. Its pioneering trigeneration scheme delivers heating, cooling and power to the museum, ensuring that priceless exhibits are kept in optimum conditions and that visitors have a great and comfortable experience.

Gary Fielding, Joint Managing Director at Vital Energi, commented, “We are honoured to sponsor this year’s ADE Awards. They do a fantastic job of spotlighting the outstanding work being done to reduce carbon emissions and generate more affordable energy. Hosting the awards at the Natural History Museum is a great way to celebrate the tenth anniversary of their trigeneration scheme and successful approach of achieving long term carbon and financial savings.”

Past ADE Award winners have ranged from district heating networks providing affordable warmth to low incomes households, to industrial energy centres reducing energy costs and boosting productivity, to innovative control systems and leading edge software ensuring that our energy system works as efficiently and effectively as possible.

The 2016 ADE Awards are now open for entries. The deadline for entries is Thursday 30 June. Full details of the awards and how to enter can be found at http://heatconference.co.uk/index.php/awards.

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