Planning for decentralised energy: Institutions, sources and users of heat networks in Northeast England

William Otchere-Darko*, Michael Crilly, Tyne Jenkinson, Caitlin Harper, Emily Ingall-Tombs, Esmee Bryson-Harris

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

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Heat networks are deemed part of a heterogeneous mix of decentralised, low cost and potentially lower impact energy alternatives. In the UK, heat networks are integrated within energy, climate, and planning policies, towards net zero by 2050, and contain a complex and confused scope of issues around the reduction of energy consumption, renewable energy supply and storage alongside wider climate mitigation and adaptation strategies. These policies are similarly situated within multi-scalar governance frameworks, funding streams and locationally specific infrastructure networks. Despite this, the diffusion of heat networks, currently constituting 3% of the UK’s energy mix, is comparatively lower than other European countries.
The research explores how energy and spatial planning actors, policies and practices attend to heterogenous heat sources and user groups in the generation, distribution and use of heat. We use a variety of operational DH case studies from Northeast England, a region with historic industrial energy infrastructure like old mines, power stations and brownfields and recent heat network projects. A mixed
method approach is used entailing desk-based studies, key expert interviews and dynamic energy modelling.
We highlight three preliminary findings. First, local authorities in the Northeast play diverse roles (leading, subsidiarising, partnering and outsourcing) in coordinating DH projects within a panoply of public and private bodies. Secondly, that planning does not attend to heterogeneous DH energy sources (particularly
gas and geothermal), with implications for practices like heat-mapping as well as vertical and underground cartographies of energy planning. Finally, the research identified cost savings for domestic DH adoption in the case studies, premised on specific land uses and DH technologies
In effect, we aim to contribute to research on different scales of DH planning as well as the challenges of its production, distribution and use for energy planning.


WorkshopGoverning Heterogeneous Energy Infrastructures
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