Heat generated for homes and businesses must be harnessed for community use and not wasted, says ICE

Heat generated for homes and businesses in the UK is going to waste when it could instead be harnessed for future use, according to a new report from the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE).

Why waste heat report

Why waste heat research findings

The study, based on research conducted by the University of Southampton sustainability energy research group, suggests that 49 per cent of all primary energy consumption in the UK comes from heat production.

Based on these findings, the ICE recommends the use of Combined Heat and Power (CHP) technology to capture and re-use the waste heat produced in the electricity generation process, thereby curbing energy consumption and decreasing carbon emissions.

While traditional electricity simply disposes of excess heat, CHP plants would instead transfer this heat back to the user in the form of hot water and central heating.

Member of ICE's Energy Panel, Dr. Keith Tovey, said: 'The truth is, that if half of the heat lost during electricity production could be captured it would meet 25 per cent of the UK's heat demand, dramatically reducing energy consumption, cutting costs and carbon emissions.

'In the longer term we need to consider the potentially huge benefits that decentralised CHP could bring to the UK. With the current generation of thermal power stations coming to the end of their lifespan, there is a real opportunity to vastly improve the efficiency of our energy sector and drastically lower its carbon footprint.'

Though a move to a CHP heating network would entail a significant overhaul of existing infrastructure within the UK, the ICE suggests an introduction of CHP and district heating networks in select locations within the coming years.

Decentralised CHP and district heating is used successfully in Scandanavia and other parts of Europe where smaller power stations are located close to population centres.

Dr. Tovey continued: 'It's true that delivering decentralised CHP across the UK would require significant new infrastructure and a large reorganisation of the sector, but if we are to guarantee security of supply, whilst meeting tough carbon targets, radical change may be what is needed.

The report, Why waste heat?, is the second in a series of energy briefing papers produced by the ICE, intended to provoke debate and question current thinking.

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