Reducing heat demand in UK cities: Using complexity science to enable effective decision-making

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Chemical and Process Engineering

Abstract

Almost half (46%) of the final energy consumed in the UK is used to provide heat; this demand is currently largely met through burning fossil fuels. As a result, over a third of the UK's greenhouse gas emissions are directly attributable to heat-related activities. This brings the need to balance key national objectives, including reducing carbon emissions and providing a secure and affordable supply of heat to UK homes and businesses (the "energy trilemma"). Addressing these challenges will require new ways of reducing end-use heat demand and promoting energy efficiency, and the integration of technologies into existing city infrastructure that decarbonise heating and cooling or provide a means of storing heat. The reduction of heat demand is therefore closely linked both to alternative technologies and to business and governance models. As a result, the interactions between social and technical elements of the system need to be more thoroughly understood. Heat demand reduction that works with rather than against people and organisations, enabling heat technologies to be designed and deployed effectively and with maximum impact, is vital if the UK is to meet the 2050 target of an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions whilst providing affordable warmth to those already in fuel poverty or likely to become so as energy prices rise.

This fellowship project aims to develop tools that will enable local authorities and other key city stakeholders to make effective decisions for the reduction of heat demand. The approach to achieving a significant reduction in heat demand needs to be twofold: (1) efficient delivery of heat services (as an alternative to the point-of-use burning of gas in boilers) through district heat networks linked to low-carbon technologies such as combined heat and power (CHP) or energy from waste, and (2) an increased uptake of energy-efficient and low-carbon heating technologies such as insulation, heat pumps and solar thermal in the domestic sector. Neither of these has the potential to deliver a low-carbon future in isolation; instead, both must work in concert. The proposed research will consider how (1) and (2) interact.

The intention is that these tools will be used to analyse potential end-use heat demand reduction strategies and specific interventions that could be implemented by the public and/or private sector in the city energy system. Potential interventions can encompass different approaches by local and central government and can range from the primarily technological, e.g. use of low-carbon heat technologies in council-owned estates, to the primarily policy-based, e.g. supplementary planning guidance on connections to heat networks.

Novel approaches to modelling complex systems will be used that will deliver a better understanding of how the different aspects of the city-level heat system are linked. The whole system encompasses technologies, institutional and governance arrangements, the environment, the behaviours of individuals, and business models. Each aspect will be influenced by the others and so, in order to identify successful actions a local authority may take, the emergent behaviour of the whole system must be explored.

The research will be conducted at the Centre for Integrated Energy Research at the University of Leeds, which provides an interdisciplinary environment. As a result the research will include input from academics working in engineering, energy policy and modelling. In-depth engagement will also be undertaken with practitioners from project partners in local government and industry and stakeholders across the heat sector.

Planned Impact

Beneficiaries of the research will be those organisations with an interest in city-level heat systems that wish to address one or all of the aspects of the "energy trilemma". These organisations include:
* local and central government organisations (including local authorities and their associated delivery partners, local enterprise partnerships, central government offices, and government-funded agencies such as the Carbon Trust and Energy Saving Trust);
* engineering and consultancy businesses (that work with local authorities, developers and investors);
* industry, including firms manufacturing and installing heat technologies as well as large infrastructure developers;
* academia (across multiple disciplines, including end-use energy demand, heat energy systems, energy governance and policy and complexity science), and related research institutes (e.g. UK Energy Research Centre).
The majority of beneficiaries are likely to be UK-based, but some results will be transferable for a wider EU and international audience. Four project partners have already been secured: Leeds City Council, Arup (who have close links with Sheffield City Council), CO2Sense and DHC+. Contacts with other key stakeholders will be developed throughout the project.

This research proposal comes at a time when central and local government and industry are eager to understand the issues concerning the delivery of low-carbon heat in order to meet UK and EU carbon reduction targets. There is a host of government policies aimed at solving the energy trilemma of low-carbon, secure and affordable heat. This fellowship project supports the aims of national energy policies and strategies including the government's recent heat strategy, a national heat map and the renewable heat incentive. In the domestic sector in particular, the UK government's flagship Green Deal policy and the Community Low Carbon Heating scheme are aimed at retrofitting heat technologies in the domestic sector. The role for local authorities and other city-level actors will be critical in encouraging uptake of these initiatives and in deploying urban district heating systems. In meeting the legally-binding target of reducing the UK's carbon emissions by 80% from 1990 levels by 2050, the transition to low-carbon heating for domestic and commercial properties will be critical. Many UK local authorities have strategies to deliver affordable warmth to residents in their areas and to support the UK government's target that by 2016 no person shall live in fuel poverty. Enabling uptake of energy-efficient heating technologies and using heat networks to provide affordable warmth play an important part in meeting these objectives. In addition, a strategic approach to energy planning by local authorities can bring many benefits, including increased private investment and development and job creation in urban areas. This research project will deliver tools to enable strategic decision-making for the reduction of heat at the city-level in support of national objectives.

Through secondment activities in both local government and a consultancy organisation, the benefits of using complexity science methods to understand energy systems and the interplay between technologies, policy and organisational and individual behaviours will be disseminated. The models developed can be used by organisations directly to enable effective decision-making in support of a city-level reduction in heat demand.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Overall this project has developed a greater understanding of the role of local authorities in developing heat networks, and in managing heat demand in UK cities.

In particular the work made a contribution in five key areas:

Socio-technical energy systems: The work has added to the literature on how energy transitions may happen in cities, for example, by understanding the role of intermediaries at different scales, by identifying the complex range of motivations local actors have for engaging in heat infrastructure and by examining how national policy might better support local delivery of district heating.

Decision-making: An open-access decision-support tool was developed that allows energy planners a quick and simple way to include social factors right from the early stages of district heating planning; offering an additional evidence base to support business cases for potential schemes and to open up discussions with stakeholders. The tool has been used by local authorities and engineering consultancies to support heat planning activities.

Policy: The results of the project have also informed national policy and strategy, such as guidance from HM treasury on valuing infrastructure spend and supporting the work of the Committee on Climate Change.

Participatory modelling methods: Through the work, new methods were developed including the use of decision theatres as a way to engage stakeholders in research and modelling processes.

Complexity science: The work has demonstrated several aspects of the application of complexity science to energy questions. In addition, new insights into the epistemological characteristics of agent-based modelling have been explored.

In addition, since this was a fellowship award, a key outcome has been my own personal development. I now have an academic position at the University of Leeds, and have been able to develop my research profile with local, national and international stakeholders. I have also been able to start building my research group, supervising PhD and masters students on topics related to energy in cities.
Exploitation Route The Leeds Heat Planning tool is already being used by stakeholder such as local authorities to inform energy planning. The policy insights will help shape national strategy around developing heat networks.

New methods in participatory modelling and using complexity science to understand energy systems will be of use to the academic community.
Sectors Energy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice

URL http://sure-infrastructure.leeds.ac.uk/leedsheat/
 
Description 1. Societal/Quality of life: Reducing fuel poverty by supporting local authorities to promote district heat networks that can provide affordable energy. Research has led to the development of the Leeds Heat Planning Tool (LHPT). The tool is intended to allow local authorities, to consider societal factors as part of the business cases for new district heating schemes, specifically reducing fuel poverty. It helps to provide evidence and options for planners to discuss with developers, businesses and communities and promotes the use of new technologies and strategic planning to help reduce fuel poverty. Currently district heat network schemes are funded through direct government investments/access to regional development funding, or as commercial ventures with potential for high return on investment. The expectation is that this tool can help to build the case for mixed approaches which can be both commercially viable and provide societal benefit. There are over 40 registered users of the tool. In addition, the accompanying video explains the benefits of this mixed approach to district heating. 2. Economic: This research has supported understanding of the socio-technical barriers and solutions to developing heat networks. This could lead to economic benefits in the following ways: A) There are economic benefits to businesses of developing district heat networks as it can use waste heat from commercial and industrial processes to meet a local energy demand. B) Encourage investment in district heat networks by national government and local authorities. C) Consultancy businesses are using the Leeds Heat Planning Tool to offer services to local authorities. 3. Policy/Guidance: Heat networks were specifically mentioned in the updated HM Treasury Green Book supplementary guidance: valuing infrastructure spend (referencing work generated in this project)and this guidance is used for the appraisal and impact assessments of major public sector investments. The new reference should therefore assist any public sector bodies considering investment in heat networks.
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Energy,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

 
Description Citation in Green Book guidance
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Citation in other policy documents
URL https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/green-book-supplementary-guidance-valuing-infrastructure-...
 
Description Individual contribution to the Committee on Climate Change Fifth Carbon Budget
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Membership of a guideline committee
URL https://documents.theccc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Committee-on-Climate-Change-Fifth-Carbon-...
 
Description Chesshire Lehmann Fund
Amount £5,000 (GBP)
Organisation National Energy Action 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2013 
End 03/2014
 
Description SUPERGEN Energy Storage Challenge
Amount £1,136,810 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/N001745/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2015 
End 09/2018
 
Description Collaboration with Leeds City Council 
Organisation Leeds City Council
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution As the researcher seconded, I spend approx.. one day per month with colleagues at Leeds City Council allowing both shaping and dissemination of the research undertaken.
Collaborator Contribution The secondment allows privileged access to data, staff time and meetings.
Impact Chapter in a report that incorporated Leeds CC case study Video about decision-planning tool that features a colleague from Leeds CCC
Start Year 2013
 
Description IRES project 
Organisation California State University
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Scoping of a student research project, input to project and supervision of student while on research visit Jul-Sept 2016.
Collaborator Contribution Project management of student cohort, student supervision.
Impact None yet.
Start Year 2016
 
Description IRES project 
Organisation University of North Dakota
Department College of Engineering and Mines
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Scoping of a student research project, input to project and supervision of student while on research visit Jul-Sept 2016.
Collaborator Contribution Project management of student cohort, student supervision.
Impact None yet.
Start Year 2016
 
Title Leeds Heat Planning Tool 
Description The Leeds Heat Planning Tool is a district heating planning tool covering England and Wales. This tool offers energy planners a quick and simple way to include social factors right from the early stages of district heating planning; offering an additional evidence base to support business cases for potential schemes and to open up discussions with stakeholders. The tool gives users an initial indication of locations that have the potential to offer viable district heating alongside social benefits such as alleviating fuel poverty. The tool can also be used to visualise several data sets related to energy. 
Type Of Technology Webtool/Application 
Year Produced 2014 
Impact So far over 40 unique organisations have registered to use the software. The organisations include local authorities and engineering consultancies, for use in visualising data and informing planning. The tool has also been used in an undergraduate dissertation. 
URL http://heatplanning.leeds.ac.uk/
 
Description Complex Systems Conference (Arizona) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Conference presentation at International conference on complex systems. Sparked new contacts in the community.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Institute of Civil Engineers graduates and students attribute seminar 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact 50 ICE graduate members attended a workshop about developing a deeper understanding of the particular ICE attributes and how to achieve them. I talked about the sustainable development criteria and it sparked a different interpretation of what could be included as evidence in this category from the audience.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://www.ice.org.uk/eventarchive/developing-the-attributes-part-a-leeds?categoryid=448
 
Description Member of project advisory group (JRF) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Member of project advisory group for Joseph Rowntree Foundation project on District heating: Delivering affordable and sustainable energy - shaping research direction and inputting expert opinion over the lifetime of the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Panel speaker at Celebrating Women in Engineering event 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Discussion on my career in engineering and open discussion sessions with participants on experiences as a woman in engineering. I provided some advice to participants.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://nearyou.imeche.org/near-you/UK/Yorkshire/Northern-Area-YM-Panel/event-detail?id=12104
 
Description Presentation at CDT workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Presentation on Heat vs. Electricity - Current and Desired Markets at the Manchester CDT in Power Networks. Discussion with the postgraduate students followed and some contacted me afterwards for further info for their research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description School visit 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Talk to 160 Year 12 students at William Howard School on topics from climate change to sustainable cities which sparked questions from the audience.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011,2013,2014,2015,2016
 
Description Video to raise awareness of online tool 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Video was used to publicise the Leeds Heat Planning Tool. The video was shared on social media by a number of organisations.

Increased registration for the tool was seen.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://heatplanning.leeds.ac.uk/