A heat network supplies heating to buildings in a local area. It uses a network of underground pipes to carry hot water from a central source, known as an energy centre.
About 18% of heat will need to come from heat networks by 2050 to meet national targets. This is according to the Climate Change Committee, an independent group that advises the government.
Cities including Nottingham, Sheffield and Copenhagen already have a heat network. These cities traditionally use gas to provide heat.
We and the University of Cambridge are exploring a new heat network for the city centre is feasible. We want to know whether it could use zero or low-carbon sources and renewable heat pumps.
If our study identifies that the network is workable, we’ll need to secure funding to develop the project further.
If feasible, the network could supply renewable heating and hot water around the city centre. Many of the buildings there currently rely on energy produced with fossil fuels. This includes:
- buildings owned by the council
- buildings owned by the University of Cambridge and colleges
- local businesses
- public and residential buildings
The network could help to reduce carbon emissions produced by historic buildings. This would help us to work towards our target to reduce our direct carbon emissions to net zero by 2030.
Some university and college buildings may be among the hardest in the city to decarbonise. The network would help the university meet its target to cut its energy related carbon dioxide emissions to absolute zero by 2048.
Reducing nitrogen dioxide emissions would also help to improve air quality in the city’s clean air zone.
We received funding from the government in 2022 to determine the technical and economic feasibility of the scheme. We have appointed the consultancy firm Aecom to carry out the study on our behalf.
The feasibility study will focus on the ‘core network city area’, shown within the blue line on the map. It will also review the wider ‘study area’ shown within the red line on the map.
The study will consider:
- possible heat sources – environmental heat from air, ground or water heat pumps, and industrial waste heat
- potential locations for energy centres
- potential routes for new pipes
- potential customers – which buildings could connect to the network
- whether the heat network will be able to expand and adapt, to help to decarbonise as much of the city as possible
The study is due to be completed in summer 2023. We will continue to update this page with more information as the project progresses.
Phase 1: Heat mapping and masterplanning
The first stage of the feasibility study is complete. The Heat Mapping and Masterplanning Report includes the findings from this stage, including:
- energy demand in the city centre
- renewable or low-emission heat sources that could power the network
- the potential network route
Initial findings suggest that a city centre heat network is likely to be feasible. The results from this stage will now be taken through to the detailed feasibility stage.
How you can help
Local energy consumption survey
In February 2023 we asked local businesses, building owners and landlords to tell us about their energy consumption.
The consultants will use the data to calculate the local area’s heat requirements. They will also determine which buildings could connect to the network.
Thank you to everybody who helped. We’d still like to hear from you if you are interested in connecting to the heat network.