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Heat is the largest energy end-use with over 50% of global energy consumption

Heat is a form of energy that determines the temperature, volume, and state (gas, liquid or solid) of a material. It can be transferred from one object to another, to raise or lower temperatures, and is most commonly transferred from warmer to cooler matter. It can be produced by converting other forms of energy, such as chemical energy stored in fuels or electrical energy, in boilers, furnaces, pumps or electric heaters. Heat energy allows us to warm and cool our buildings, provides us with hot water and the ability to cook our food. Heat is also required for industrial production of steel, chemicals, food and drink.

Heat accounts for a large proportion of greenhouse gas emissions; the decarbonisation of heat is thus vital to reach emission reduction targets. With various means of production and range of uses embedded in all aspects of our lives, heat constitutes a complicated system that is difficult to lead down a single desired path. As such, fewer countries currently have policies for renewable heat than they do for renewable electricity and transport.

Unlike electricity which can be decarbonised solely by feeding renewable energy into the grid, decarbonising heat also depends on changes at the point of use and may require millions of homes to replace their gas or oil-fired boilers with a new technology. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, since the fuel mix and the means of delivery to the end-user vary greatly from one country to another. Thus, a multiple-technology approach towards low carbon heat is most likely required, resulting in a mix of pathways. These could include electrification using heat pumps, using sustainably-produced hydrogen as a fuel, and setting up district heating networks which can incorporate a range of low-carbon heat sources as well as waste heat from various industrial and urban processes. Heat energy efficiency is also key for emissions reductions and advancements can be made in thermal performance of buildings (e.g. insulation) and the efficiency of heating systems. Wider deployment of combined heat and power (CHP), as it produces electricity and useful heat at the same time, can also help to improve the efficiency of the wider energy system. However, public acceptance, high upfront capital costs, and additional infrastructure and storage requirements pose significant challenges to implementing such transformations of the heat system.

Read our Energy Insights on heat.

Find out energy professionals’ expectations for the future sources of heat in the UK.

Learn more about district heating or combined heat and power by browsing our online knowledge resources.

What's new?

Fabric improvements before innovation in low carbon heat

Whichever technologies are brought forward to supply low carbon heat to UK homes, the first priority remains to improve the energy performance of the fabric of the buildings. And this is ultimately a public policy and user behaviour issue, as Jennifer Johnson reports.  

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Bristol moves to heat pumps for new public housing

Bristol City Council’s 133 homes at Ashton Rise are being built using the high efficiency Sig iHouse solution, and heated by individual Kensa ground source heat pumps connected to a shared ground loop array of boreholes. The installation should see each home making lifetime carbon savings of 30...

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Turning up the heat

A consortium of pioneering gas transmission projects, under the banner of H21, led by Northern Gas Networks, aims to demonstrate that the UK gas grid can be converted to hydrogen technically, safely and economically. Brian Davis reports.

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Energy Insight: Decarbonisation of heat in the UK

In order to meet emissions reductions targets, every sector of the economy must be decarbonised, including power, heat and transport. This Energy Insight focuses on heat, including space heating, water heating and industrial processes.• What progress has been made in decarbonising heat?• What are th...

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Harnessing London’s underground heat and retrofitting NYC – EI Energy Efficiency conference

Big city energy management challenges from both sides of the pond were discussed at EI’s annual Energy Efficiency Conference this week in London.Transport for London’s Senior Energy Strategy Manager Alex Gilbert provided an insight into a transit system expected to spend £6 billion on energy by 2030...

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Events and training

Study Tour to Yunfu

Energy Institute Hong Kong will organize a Study Tour to Yunfu on 25 - 27 October 2019 for her members and guests.

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Net-Zero: what are the solutions?

This panel debate will ask some of the key leaders in UK energy what the solutions are for a net-zero economy and how we can get there.

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Heat Recovery Steam Generator user Group 2019

Event held by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Enjoy peer-reviewed technical presentations and learning opportunities at this year's HRSG User Group. Attend to understand how to keep your technology up to date, enhance its operational lifespan and remain competitive in the market.

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Energy Policy Debate: UK pathways to decarbonising heat

In order to meet the UK’s net zero emissions target by 2050, every sector of the economy must be decarbonised. We have made strong progress in decarbonising power generation, thanks to improvements in efficiency, switching from coal to natural gas, and an increase in the share of renewabl...

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Level 3: Advanced Energy Manager

This 10-day course is an advanced qualification aiming to support experienced energy managers to further advance their careers by gaining the skills and knowledge required to function successfully at a senior level and be able to manage energy across a wide range of business areas, activities and pa...

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Technical guidance publications

IP 618: Determination of cold filter blocking tendency

This standard specifies a method for the determination of the cold filter blocking tendency (CFBT) and cold filterability of middle distillate fuel oils containing biodiesel from 0 % to 20 %, at temperatures between ambient and -5 °C where the end use demands an exceptional degree of cleanliness...

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Guidance on selection, installation and management of fire resistant sealant materials and system components for secondary containment construction/expansion joints

This technical publication has been prepared under the technical direction of the EI's Containment Systems Working Group (CSWG) adopting the findings from the Research report: Fire resistance testing of sealant materials and system components for secondary containment construction/expansion joints. ...

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Guidance for corrosion management in oil and gas production and processing

*This publication has a large file size, please allow extra time for the PDF to download*This second edition of the EI's Guidance on corrosion management in oil and gas production and processing provides general principles and essential engineering guidance and requirements for improving corrosion m...

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Guidance on the development and commissioning of new combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) plant

This publication provides good practice for the safe commissioning of 'new build' CCGT plant projects. New build is plant that is being planned or has recently been constructed and being made ready (during the commissioning phase) for operation to an agreed specification and contract. It is intended...

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HM 78. Guidelines for meter selection for the upstream oil and gas industry

This publication has been produced as a high-level guideline on meter selection by those involved in the upstream oil and gas industry. The selection of the correct meter or primary element along with the appropriate secondary instrumentation is fundamental to the performance and/or reliability of a...

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