The Future Role of District Heating in Great Britain
Salman Siddiqui, UCL Energy Institute
Several options exist to decarbonise the provision of heat in the built environment, some which include a high degree of electrification of low temperature heat demand. With the high level of electrification, it is expected that a large share of this in future scenarios will be from variable renewable generation. District heating networks are a technology that allow centralised heat generation to be distributed and allows a more diverse range of heat sources to be used taking advantage of the efficiencies and economies of scale including the integration of thermal energy storage due to its potential in peak load shifting.
Integration of heat and electricity networks is a promising opportunity to manage and mitigate temporal imbalances of supply and demand in an energy system with a high fraction of variable renewable generation. Supply and demand follow different patterns in different domains and integrating them can lead to synergies in generation, storage and consumption, resulting in a higher reliability, flexibility and efficiency for the energy system. This flexibility is important for the security of supply for the electricity grid and may have more profound economic benefits, replacing the need for costly grid scale electricity storage. Both the carbon intensity and cost of electricity generated hour by hour will vary depending on the demand and amount of renewable generation available while the supply of wind power is seasonally correlated with heat demand.
Existing studies on the potential of district heating in Britain address this issue inadequately and whole system economic optimisation studies fail to capture the operation of thermal energy storage in sufficient temporal resolution with real meteorology and grid electricity pricing. This research aims to further the understanding of the role of district heating in integrating variable renewable generation to achieve a low carbon energy system and how district heating infrastructure may be developed to maximise benefits to the whole system.