Sustainability and carbon neutrality in UK's district heating: A review and analysis

Ryan Hepple, Hu Du, Haibo Feng, Shan Shan, Siliang Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
91 Downloads (Pure)


The UK is currently approaching a critical point in the fight against climate change. To achieve carbon neutral by 2050, it is crucial that the way in which buildings are heated are reviewed to determine the most suitable solution. The UK government has acknowledged that district heating (also referred to as heat networks) forms an important part of their plan for future sustainability in heating homes as well as improving energy costs. At present, there are five generations of district heating with distinctive improvements between each. However, research shows a lack of progression with only minor improvements to efficiencies and carbon emissions in the past two decades. Therefore, this paper aimed to review the key technologies and design principles of the low-impact network which shall be implemented into future networks to ensure sustainability and carbon neutral. Furthermore, data were utilised from UK government's ‘Heat Network Project Pipeline’ documents which cover a wide range of projects supported through the development stage by the UK Heat Network Delivery Unit. A statistical analysis was also undertaken to identify popular heat source technologies currently being implemented into the UK networks. Information such as technologies, size and costs were analysed to establish the intercorrelations, which may influence the type of technologies being selected. The results show that 56% of total networks contained Combined Heat and Power (CHP) as a primary heat source, of which over 40% were gas fired CHP, displaying the current dominance of the technology. Overall, it is evident in the UK that, the new networks have been improved from previous generations with a high concentration of renewable energy technologies and heat recovery methods being used. However, there is still a high reliance on natural gas, which does not fulfil the characteristics of a low-impact heating network.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100133
Number of pages15
Journale-Prime - Advances in Electrical Engineering, Electronics and Energy
Early online date28 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2023

Bibliographical note

© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (


  • UK district heating
  • Low temperature heating
  • Renewable and sustainable energy technologies
  • Carbon neutrality


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