Vattenfall exploring high-temperature heat pumps for UK market, BEIS allocates more funding for heat networks

Image: Vattenfall

Vattenfall announced on Wednesday (5 January) that it will begin offering an all-electric, high-temperature heat pump technology to customers in the Netherlands later this year. While most heat pumps keep water temperatures between 45C and 55C – around 15C to 25C cooler than with gas boilers – the new technology is able to heat water to the same level as gas boilers.

The advantage of the higher temperature, Vattenfall has said, is that it will mitigate the need for consumers to retrofit their homes to improve energy efficiency before installing a heat pump. This could enable a swifter and cheaper transition away from gas boilers.

Vattenfall notably has an overarching sustainability vision to “enable fossil-fuel-free living within a generation” in the markets in which it operates.

In a statement, Vattenfall said that it intends to launch the innovative heat pumps, which it is selling through its consumer technology subsidiary Feenstra, to the UK market in the future. The statement outlines how Dutch and British gas central heating infrastructure is similar, meaning the technology could be a good fit for UK homes outside of urban areas.

The UK Government’s Heat and Buildings Strategy, published in October 2021, notably contains a commitment to bring heat pump costs – both upfront and operational – in line with gas boilers by 2030. This should pave the way for the elimination of gas boilers in most properties by 2035.  At present, homes account for around one-fifth of the UK’s annual national emissions, largely because of fossil-fuelled heating and energy inefficiency.

While promoting its heat pump technology, Vattenfall is also urging policymakers in the Netherlands and the UK to take a context-based approach, supporting heat pumps in suburban and rural areas but district heating networks and waste heat recovery in urban centres.

“There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to decarbonising heating,” said Vattenfall Heat UK’s development director Mark Anderson. “Removing emissions from heating relies on us making better use of waste heat from all sources and installing the right technologies in the correct locations of the country, where they will be most effective and affordable.”

Heat Networks Investment Project

In related news, the UK Government recently appointed Ofgem as the nation’s heat network regulator and Citizens Advice as the consumer advocacy body for heat networks. It simultaneously unveiled a £19.1m investment round from its £320m Heat Networks Investment Project (HNIP).

The investment will support the installation of five heat networks – two in Bristol and one each in Liverpool, London and Worthing.

The projects in Bristol are being overseen by Bristol City Council and will serve the Temple and Bedminster districts respectively. Heat will be derived from ground-source and water-source heat pumps, and from a waste heat recovery network at Bristol University. Collectively, the two schemes should serve around 6,000 homes.

In London, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea will be supported to set up a network served by air-source heat pumps that will provide heat to 826 homes and several commercial and public units in the Notting Dale area.

In Liverpool, Peel Energy will be supported to transition to a water-source heat pump solution, from energy-from-waste, for the primary energy source at its Liverpool Waters network. Peel Energy is hoping to expand its network in phases to ultimately reach up to 9,000 homes.

The Worthing-based scheme, overseen by the Borough Council, is somewhat smaller and will serve 27 buildings in the first instance. The plan is to create a centralised heat pump that will capture waste heat from the sewer for use in buildings.

“Almost one-third of all UK carbon emissions come from heating our homes and addressing this is a vital part of tackling pollution, driving down bills and reducing our reliance on costly fossil fuels,” said Climate Change Minister Lord Callanan.  “[This] announcement builds on our commitments made in the Heat and Buildings Strategy to regulate the UK’s heat networks, protect consumers, and create opportunities for green jobs and investment across the country.”

The HNIP is due to close in the coming months and the UK Government has confirmed that it is still developing the successor scheme, which will be called the Green Heat Network Fund and is due to launch in April. A transition scheme opened last summer, with Ministers confirming that the new Fund will have stricter carbon-related requirements for supporting projects.

According to the Climate Change Committee (CCC), heat networks currently provide just 2% of the UK’s heat demand. In a net-zero UK in 2050, this proportion will need to be around 20%.

Sarah George

Comments (2)

  1. Keiron Shatwell says:

    If this gets the Green light and comes on stream then it would be a bit of a game changer for switching. Right now for me to install a HP I would have to rip out 18 perfectly serviceable radiators and about 250m of perfectly good copper pipe and replace it all with brand new ones – which is a total waste of resources – as current HP tech can’t heat the water high enough to work with standard UK central heating especially with microbore (10mm) pipes.

    A high heat system though that can reach 70 C easily and do that at quantity would mean a simple "plug & play" swap for my oil boiler or any gas boiler.

    My only concern would be can it heat enough water fast enough as I have a big system with an additional 300L hot water tank that I have to get to over 60 C at least 1x a week for Legionella protections.

  2. Keiron Shatwell says:

    You hit the nail firmly on the head with your last sentence. Until we have properly insulated, energy efficient buildings across the land there is no point in upgrading heating. There are homes near me that still have almost no insulation (apart from maybe 100mm in the loft), single glazed windows and even rely on a back boiler from a coal fire to heat their water. Yet some have had HP foisted on them by a box ticker in the council so now have cold, damp homes because the HP simply can’t heat the building effectively due to lack of insulation.

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