With all the speculation around industry standards for district energy, the UK District Energy Association (UKDEA) has expressed concern that, whilst a standard aimed at ensuring district energy schemes are well planned and appropriately operated is a good thing, the emerging industry could be stifled if such standards place unnecessary financial burdens or restriction on innovation at this critical point in its development.
The UK is one of the last ‘developed’ countries to take up district energy on a large scale, and the industry is enjoying an unprecedented boom since the turn of the century. However, the UKDEA recognises that countries such as Germany and Denmark have been successfully operating district energy schemes on a much wider scale than the UK for some decades now.
The UKDEA acknowledges that many of these ‘old hands’ have spent years developing industry standards of their own, and that the UK should be looking to these industry leaders for guidance rather than trying to reinvent the wheel. The Association believes that any standard set in the UK would need to be harmonised with Europe for practical reasons, therefore adopting existing standards or at least elements of them should be the top priority for the UK district energy industry.
Previously, the UK saw a boom in district energy installations in the 1970’s which, without any guidance or standards for installation and operation, resulted in several poorly planned schemes being removed. The knowledge of this previous mistake has led some experts and organisations to call for formal standards, potentially before the groundwork has been laid for the UK’s marketplace.
The danger of restrictive and potentially expensive “British Standards” for district energy is that they could slow technological advances, and could see many of the smaller, more dynamic players in the district energy industry struggling to compete.
UKDEA chairman and CEO of Cofely District Energy, Simon Woodward, commented that,
“The UKDEA´s view is that standards are a good idea, especially if the significant growth in DE takes place as we all expect – this will prevent systems being poorly installed and operated which was the main cause of DE schemes being removed in the 1970´s following the previous boom.
Any industry standards that come about in relation to district energy should be set by a working group of industry experts and should be practical and workable. They should not put unnecessary costs onto an emerging industry.”
The UKDEA has already planned to look at industry standards in the workstream for the coming year, but intends to review standards used in Europe before attempting to create anything new.
The question of industry standards is firmly placed on the agenda for this forward thinking Association, and will be addressed later in 2013 once the groundwork has been laid for such discussions.