British district heating gets closer

Date: 27 August 2015

Just as ordinary that district heating is in Denmark, just as unusual is it in the UK. But that is about to change – resulting exciting opportunities for Danish companies.

Wicotec Kirkebjerg, a leading technical contractor in Denmark, had no plans to move into the UK market, as one day they were contacted by telephone and asked to assess a failed district heating project in the London borough of Islington.

“It was new construction, where excessive heat loss was detected. Since the pipes were Danish, they contacted a Danish consultant who again contacted us”, says Managing Director Aksel Frandsen.

Just as ordinary that district heating is in Denmark, just as unusual this type of heat supply is in the UK.

“They had made a solution that could provide half of London with heat and which therefore had an enormous waste of heat. We changed it according to Danish standard, and that solved the problem”, says Aksel Frandsen.

This became Wicotec Kirkebjerg’s ticket to continue working with the project’s next stages. It also gave the company an eye for the big potential for collective heat supply in the UK.

Increased regulation provides opportunities
“The Brits are looking for alternatives to the dominant solution, which is gas. At the same time, they have untapped sources of heat in both waste incineration and waste heat from power plants. But they lack the crucial ‘driver’ – which in Denmark has been that there has been the legislation in the area”, says Aksel Frandsen.

Unlike Denmark, the UK energy market is to a much lesser extent regulated. However, that is beginning to change, aided by a Danish-British agency cooperation, which was launched in 2014. It aims to inspire the British to establish a framework that resembles the Danish energy model.

“One of the reasons why district heating is only now gaining ground in the UK is that 20-25 years ago, there was a number of expensive and bad projects. Therefore, it is very important that future systems will be successful and can be coupled with consumer protection. In this area, Denmark has all the skills”, says Rasmus Leth Traberg from the Danish embassy in London.

• Large British cities that are planning district heating solutions: Leeds, Manchester, Bristol, Brighton, Glasgow, Edinburgh.
• State aid for feasibility studies within the next 10 years: 600 million British pounds.
• Number of planned public district heating projects in total: 180 divided into 115 municipalities.