Heat Network

Ashford Borough Council are working with UK government and our appointed consultants AECOM to understand the possibility of developing a District Heat Network (DHN) in Ashford.

Heat networks are an established technology increasingly being promoted as the most efficient low carbon alternative replacement for gas networks, particularly in higher density areas where individual heat pumps are not practical or desirable.

How does a District Heat Network work?

A District Heat Network works like a giant looped central heating system, where hot water is carried in an underground system of pipes, releasing its heat where and when required to connected buildings and then returning cooler water in a loop back to an energy centre to be reheated.

This could help us decarbonise and move away from fossil fuels such as gas and use renewable energy and waste heat to warm our buildings instead. Imagine local energy sources supplying local energy demand, using clean heat pumps and utilising waste heat e.g. from supermarket refrigeration, electricity sub stations and existing light industry.

Heat Network

Heat networks are widely adopted on the continent in countries like Denmark and are developing all over the UK supported by the Department of Energy Security and Net Zero. 

We successfully secured funding in 2022 to explore both the technical and commercial feasibility for a heat network in Ashford, as a core contributor to our commitment to achieving net zero in the borough by 2050.  

What are the benefits?

Benefits could include:

  • Reduced gas usage in the borough and thus a positive contribution to climate action.
  • Stable heat prices to consumers that are not subject to market fluctuations seen in imported fuels – as heat is locally produced
  • Opportunities to reduce maintenance costs for individual buildings as they will no longer require their own boiler
  • Economic development, new skills and job sector as the network extends over time
  • Drive clean energy innovation
  • Potential to provide lower heat costs compared to individual heat pumps in time
  • Levelling up access to renewables – just transition

The Energy Act 2023 highlighted the role heat networks are set to play nationally, giving governments the power to implement heat network zones and regulating heat networks as a utility through Ofgem. Whilst the detail of the legislation is going through consultation, it is anticipated that public buildings, commercial and industrial premises, existing communally heated developments and new developments will be mandated to join networks where they exist, giving surety to the market. Existing residential properties will not be required to connect but it is our ambition that we create a network where voluntary connections are viable and desirable.

The study is in its very early phase but we hope to have a high level plan outlining opportunities later in 2024, initially exploring where the business sector could link in. We also intend to bid for further grant funding to help us develop a business case for the heat network and explore how this could be financed and grown.

Updates will be published later in the year on these climate pages.

If you have any further questions please contact the team by sending an email to our Climate Action Team

More information on heat networks from the Department of Energy Security and Net Zero can be found on the government website.

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