The district heating market in the United Kingdom is currently underdeveloped, but this could change in the forthcoming years. The government has identified that the economic potential of district heating could provide up to 14% of heat demand by 2030, compared to 2% at present, and the Department of Energy and Climate Change stated in a new infrastructure investment report that heat networks are now recognised by government as the UK’s third major energy network.
The UK recognises that district heating is a key component of the technology mix needed to achieve the UK climate and energy objectives. The 2013 Heat Strategy sets out a vision of up to 50% of buildings connecting to heat networks by 2050. As of 2013, there were 2,000 district heating schemes in the UK and, as displayed on the graph, they occupy a market share of 2%. This is in contrast to natural gas, which represents the scale of individual boiler heating.
Combined heat and power (CHP) acts as an important contributor to heat networks, supplying 80% of district heating and fuelled mainly through natural gas. This is followed by energy from waste, oil and biomass. The majority of schemes are fuelled by one primary heat source, backed up with gas boilers. In addition, CHP contributed 5.8% of total national electricity production and the small-scale CHP market has experienced significant growth, driven by favourable economic conditions.