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London Environment Strategy: What it means for community heating

Posted by Kirsty Lambert

The draft London Environment Strategy recently released, highlighted the six key policy areas the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan is to address in the upcoming London Plan, due to be published later this year. The Mayor’s Plan focuses on areas which contribute to the functioning and improvement of London life. We examine how this will shape district heating schemes in London and its role on protecting Londoners as well as future proofing green energy infrastructure.


“ To ensure that London has the energy supply it needs in the future, and that the city does everything it can to limit its contribution to climate change, the Mayor wants to change the way London produces and consumes its energy.”

The Plan outlines a series of future policies that could be in place once the consultation period has closed on the 17th November. To date, the plan has been well received by many industry bodies, but we want to know, will it go far enough? And what will it hold for the future of district heating?

Efficient buildings

London’s 3.4 million homes are responsible for around one third of London’s total Green House Gas (GHG) emissions; and the poor efficiency of London’s homes is a major contributor to this. With a quarter of London’s homes set energy efficiency ratings of E, F or G. The Plan outlines how it will aim to improve on these ratings by optimising efficiencies and increasing insulation of homes and buildings; thus helping Londoners to cut their energy usage. The Plan also discusses how it will continue to back the national smart meter roll out.

Planning Regulations and future builds

Between now and 2050, building codes will be tightened to guide new construction of buildings to achieve far higher efficiency standards and greater renewable energy production – a policy that many could argue that the industry is urgently in need of following the devastating fire at Grenfell Tower.

Old buildings using coal and gas must be replaced by cleaner, local renewable energy, with programmes to support old polluting commercial boilers being replaced with efficient ones. It discusses plans to build an additional 1.3 million new homes, new schools, hospitals and workplaces by 2050, with all to receive heat, cooling and power from local renewable energy sources such as heat networks from the outset. 

The role of district heating

“The Mayor will work to increase delivery of decentralised energy in London and identify and map the opportunities to create a smart flexible energy system.”

The Plan outlines many variances of policies and support to increase the use of district and communal heating in London. It depicts heat networks as a solution to addressing both fuel and energy efficiency in buildings and the mechanism that could help the city become zero carbon.

The Mayor proposes to consider the establishment of a District Heating Network Delivery Body for London that secures funding, partnerships with London Boroughs, and develops and builds district heating networks. Furthermore, it details how they will provide technical assistance and support to increase the number of homes and businesses connected to communal heat networks.  

City-wide heat network

The Strategy deliberates the option to develop a clean, smart, integrated energy system that makes use of local and renewable energy resources and is fully integrated with the national energy system. This could become a part of a master plan for London and produce a city-wide heat network that utilises both energy storage and renewable sources of energy. It would also mean that the UK would catch up with the likes of our European heat networks such as Malmo and Gothenburg with our Capital being a fully connected and utilising clean sources of heat and power.

Protecting residents and fuel poverty

It is key to point out that the over-arching theme throughout the Strategy is safeguarding residents. And rightly so, with over 10% of London households – that’s 335,201 homes - living in fuel poverty; whatever changes to policy are applied it should be to the benefit of the people residing in London and not to cause further hardship.

Changing the ways of tariffing in London

As part of addressing fuel poverty the Mayor wants to help the most vulnerable and fuel poor citizens by producing a tender for the delivery of an energy supply company, aiming to offer fairer energy bills to Londoners as soon as possible. However, this would be just be for the general energy market – and not available for communal heating scheme residents.

The Mayor discusses his options to migrate Londoners away from utility prepayment due to the heightened and unfair tariffs in place by some gas and water suppliers. This highlights the difference between community heating pay-as-you-go (PAYG) and the general energy market. We believe that a fair and transparent tariff for all should be adopted to PAYG systems as then both the resident and supplier are protected.

Key takeaways

  • The Environment Strategy vision is to make London a zero carbon city by 2050
  • The Strategy promotes the use of heat networks across London in order to make its vision achievable
  • The over-arching messaging throughout the Strategy is to ensure that Londoners are thought of first and foremost. With the cost of living put at the front of any changes
  • Consultation on the document is open until the 17th November, with the full London Plan due to be launched later this year.

Watch the future of community heating

Kirsty Lambert

Business Development Director at Switch2

A skilled director and leader with both operational and commercial experience, Kirsty has over 10 years’ experience in the community and district heating industry.

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