District heating/heat networks—technology
Produced in partnership with WSP Environmental
District heating/heat networks—technology

The following Energy practice note Produced in partnership with WSP Environmental provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • District heating/heat networks—technology
  • What is district heating (DH)?
  • Description of DH system
  • Benefits of DH
  • Feasibility criteria
  • Potential issues
  • Deployment of DH

What is district heating (DH)?

DH, also known as heat networks, involves the provision of hot water or steam through a pipe network for use in several residential, commercial, or mixed use blocks for the purpose of space heating and hot water. This method of providing heat can be more efficient, cost effective, secure, and of a lower carbon intensity than traditional means of generating heat within individual units such as through gas boilers or electric heating.

Description of DH system

A DH system normally involves four main components:

  1. energy centre / heat source

  2. heat network

  3. heat interface unit

  4. heat user

The energy centre is the location where heat is generated. Heat can be a by-product sourced from power generating plants, industrial processes, or from dedicated combined heat and power units and dedicated boilers. The fuel inputs within these stations can range from biomass, geothermal, biogas, energy from waste (incineration of municipal solid waste), and grid gas.

The heating network carries hot water or steam from the heating station in insulated pipework, normally underground. A heating network can extend for several kilometres. The design and layout of the heat network is critical to the continued performance and growth of the network. Given the high capital costs of installing the network it is important there is sufficient demand for heat in a small area (thermal demand density) and the layout

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