Local authorities across the UK have announced ambitious targets in an effort to not only encourage local businesses and households to act but also to accelerate national action to fight climate change and meet the 2050 net zero target. Kent County Council has adopted a leadership position by committing to reducing carbon emissions for its own services and buildings to net zero by 2030 and for the whole county by 2050.
To understand how different decarbonisation scenarios could achieve net zero, Kent County Council used a pioneering methodology from Laser Energy (a business unit within Commercial Services Kent, a company wholly owned by the council) to identify the most suitable approach. One of many strategic actions identified was investing in a heat network scheme in Maidstone. This investment, supported by HNIP funding, will create a low carbon, deliverable demonstrator project which will encourage local stakeholders to recognise heat networks as a viable opportunity to decarbonise heat in the town. The opportunity for heat networks within Maidstone and the wider region has not yet been fully exploited and it is hoped this pioneering project will encourage their wider use.
Minister for Climate Change, Lord Callanan said: “Everyone needs to play their part in tackling climate change. Transforming how we heat our homes and workplaces is a vital step we can all make to end our contribution to carbon emissions, with projects like this one in Maidstone showing how whole communities can come together to cut their carbon footprint.
“As a result of government funding, Kent County Council will drive forward new low-carbon technologies that will make our towns and cities cleaner places to live and work while creating new jobs as we build back greener.”
The Maidstone Heat Network has potential to connect over 24GWh of heat demand as it extends North and South into the town centre. A water source heat pump and gas boiler system supported by a local solar farm will enable the network to transition to net-zero carbon operation. This combination means that heat generated from the heat pump is essentially zero carbon. The network has been designed with an oversized thermal store to balance periods of low carbon heat generation and heat demand. At full capacity, it is expected that the heat pump will deliver over half of the network’s heat demand. Moreover, the network could connect to additional low carbon heat sources in the future, further reducing emissions.
Susan Carey, Kent County Council’s cabinet member for Environment said: “The Maidstone Heat Network is an important part of our work to deliver our net zero ambition for both Kent County Council and for Kent. It’s the result of several years of work by the Kent County Council Energy Team and this funding from BEIS is both a vote of confidence in the project and in the concept of heat networks.”
This local authority scheme provides an example of how heat networks can not only deliver low carbon heat to our homes and buildings today, but also support future growth and expansion. With annual carbon savings of around 1,300 tonnes per year over the first 15 years of operation, this network is expected to play a key role in progressing the work already carried out by the council to reduce carbon emissions to net zero. Kent County Council have already successfully reduced carbon emissions by 50% between 2010 and 2020.
Ken Hunnisett, Triple Point Heat Networks Investment Management said: “Local authorities have a unique combination of skills, powers, local knowledge and relationships with key stakeholders. This allows them to drive forward projects such as the Maidstone Heat Network scheme to support the achievement of local and national climate change targets, whilst maximising the benefits to their communities. We are proud to support these efforts and look forward to working with other local authorities as they work towards net zero.”
To date, HNIP has awarded over £165 million to 24 heat networks across England and Wales. In total, 128km of pipe will be built out across the successful HNIP schemes connecting over 52,000 homes and almost 230 non-residential buildings to low carbon, affordable heat. The estimated carbon savings are substantial and further decarbonisation and expansion opportunities exist for all the projects supported by HNIP.