Heat networks: no longer the dark horse of decarbonisation

Heat networks are emerging as a crucial tool for installers in achieving net zero goals. These networks can accelerate the transition to low carbon solutions, reduce energy costs, and integrate renewable energy sources and waste heat.  

Heat networks are gaining recognition as a vital tool for decarbonisation, as they integrate renewables and lower energy bills, positioning them to become a key focus for achieving net zero.

Despite their proven effectiveness, they have often been overlooked. However, like offshore wind and solar panels have become popular discussion topics, heat networks are about to be spotlighted.  

Recently, industry leaders gathered at the Association for Decentralised Energy’s annual event to discuss how to maximise the impact and transformation of heat networks. It’s an exciting time for installers to explore the potential of heat networks and ensure their role in delivering a sustainable future. 

Scaling up 

Speaking to the 120 guests attending the lunch reception in the House of Lords, the ADE’s Interim CEO Caroline Bragg noted that heat networks are the only internationally proven route for decarbonising heat at scale, with the scale being the operative word: “Heat networks are not a new technology – quite the opposite.

“They are an established and well-proven form of infrastructure that is now entering a new era. Building at scale is the next step for heat networks, and we all need to learn the lessons from other industries to ensure we accelerate the growth curve.  

“Whereas onshore wind suffered from losing its base of political support and offshore wind had to overcome significant difficulties in building domestic supply chains, we need to get things right now to capitalise on the close to 100 billion investment and the tens of thousands of jobs that a thriving heat network sector would provide.” 

Visionary ideas 

ADE president Lord Duncan of Springbank passionately addressed the audience, highlighting the time for decisive action and urging the sector to forge ahead in driving growth.

In his speech, he said: “Government must seize the significant opportunity presented by heat networks. The innovative ideas discussed today are truly world-leading, yet businesses like those in the room often find themselves hindered by regulations. It is imperative that we create an environment where our visionary ideas can materialise into reality, unlocking a future where zero carbon heat networks are the most used method of heating buildings as we work towards delivering net zero.” 


Gemserv’s head of policy insights and engagement, Sam Shea, emphasised the importance of working together: “Through the commitment of government, industry and public sector organisations —we’ve witnessed the magic of investment in boosting the number of heat networks across the country, while ensuring they perform to deliver the outcomes they are capable of.  

“It’s been fantastic to be involved in the Heat Networks Investment Project, Green Heat Network Fund, Heat Network Efficiency Scheme and Heat Network Technical Assurance Scheme and it’s important to reflect on how far we’ve come. But as we look ahead, we must acknowledge that the market is becoming increasingly complex, and the energy landscape continues to evolve.

“Change is the name of the game as we strive to decarbonise heat and deploy innovative and smart solutions to deliver efficiencies. Together, we can transform the heat network market to deliver net zero.” 

Pull every possible lever 

Highlighting the huge scope low carbon heating technologies will need to play, Kieran Mullan MP, said: “What we’re here to talk about today is heat networks. Getting to net zero by 2050 is going to require us to pull every possible lever. Transitioning our heating systems is a particular challenge. 

“The UK has more than 28.5 million homes, and another 1.9 million other buildings – offices, hospitals, shops, warehouses and more. The majority of these are heated by gas boilers, which also provide hot water. Nearly a fifth of all the UK’s emissions come from buildings. 

“Deep geothermal, which can be fed into heat networks, has its greatest potential in meeting this heating challenge. It will also help reduce demand on the grid created by transitioning all of our heating to electricity.”