If there is one thing we know about climate change, it is that it isn’t going to solve itself.
Low carbon technologies far different than those we have relied on for decades will need to step into their own so that we can continue to live the lives we have grown accustomed to, without destroying the planet. Tackling the climate breakdown – or at the very least mitigating its impacts – will mean that no stone can be left unturned; change is needed across all areas of our lives, be it how we travel from A to B, the foods we eat, and the way we live in our homes. But while some of those changes can be tackled individually, others will require the rollout of infrastructure and new technologies that can be more complex and harder to access than a reusable coffee cup or an eco-friendly lunchbox. Yet, each low carbon solution standing between the UK and its legally binding net zero target will need the backing of all parties, from national and local government to businesses and members of the public alike.
Throughout the last few years, I have had the pleasure of working as part of the Triple Point Heat Networks team to deliver government funding to heat network schemes. The very title of this article leads me to hope that I don’t really need to go into too much detail about what a heat network is or the role they have to play in the UK’s decarbonisation challenge, but this would have been a very different story three years ago when the Heat Networks Investment Project (HNIP) was first launched.
Awareness of Heat Networks in 2018
With just 2% of buildings connected to heat networks in the UK back in 2018, it is no surprise that awareness of the technology was low when the scheme opened its doors. Much of our work communicating with the market at that time focused on educating and raising awareness of the benefits of heat networks, how they work and why they are worth investing in. People wanted to know and understand the work involved, how they can develop over time, and the benefits they can deliver to communities, but no news stories or announcements left our hands without an introduction to a technology that most people knew very little about. Suffice to say, we couldn’t wait to deliver our first funding awards and show the world what heat networks are all about.
What has changed between 2018 – 2021?
People understand the risks of climate change far more now than they did back in 2018 and it isn’t too difficult to understand why. Since then, we’ve seen the UK Government commit to reaching net zero by 2050, set a world leading carbon reduction target and – in the aftermath of a global pandemic – a huge push for a green recovery. Even for those working outside of the low carbon space, I expect it has been difficult to escape the news; a recent public attitude survey carried out by BEIS in fact confirms that just under half of the surveyed population have at least some understanding of ‘net zero’ compared to 33% the year before.
Awareness of Heat Networks in 2021
People are not just more aware of climate change now but of the solutions needed to address it, and it has been a real joy to have been able to play a part in developing people’s understanding of heat networks. The team at Gemserv have been hands on in communicating with projects and raising awareness of where funding is going and what impact it will have to communities across England and Wales, and it is fantastic to have been able to shine a light on these success stories. The HNIP website now proudly boasts many of the projects that have been awarded funding and stories detailing heat network projects now make the news on a regular basis. The heightened awareness of heat networks has also given us the opportunity to delve into the more complex and exciting aspects of the technology, such as how it integrates with other solutions like mine water energy, heat pumps and energy from waste – something now frequently reported on by trade media and national press.
As the old saying goes, ‘education is the most powerful weapon for changing the world’ and it’s certainly a message we can cling onto as we piece together the low carbon transition. I would personally like to thank my colleagues at Gemserv and those within BEIS and the TP Heat Networks Team for the hard work and collaboration over the past few years in educating the market. As HNIP now nears its end and we reflect on the content curated, events hosted and news stories shared, it is a great feeling to know that we have each played a role in raising awareness of a technology that will change the future of heating.