Strategic Innovation Fund

Heat Risers

Project Data

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Heat Risers aims to overcome connection barriers in the decarbonisation of heat in multi occupancy buildings (MOBs). It will develop and test a Pre-Application support tool to assist building owners in selecting the most cost effective heat solution and will explore innovative Building Network Operator (BNO) business models.

What is the project about?

Decarbonising heat in existing multi-occupancy buildings (MOBs) presents significant challenges due to mixed ownership, occupancy complexities, and high retrofit costs. Retrofitting MOBs often increases the electrical load, necessitating upgrades to both the internal building network and, at times, the external electrical network. These upgrade costs are higher for MOB residents compared to individual houses due to different cost-sharing mechanisms. 

Limited data on the conditions and capacities of internal building network makes the Identification of the most optimal and cost-effective heat decarbonisation solutions quite challenging. Additionally, unclear roles, responsibilities, and funding routes further impede progress, making it difficult to implement necessary upgrades and transition to sustainable heating solutions effectively. 

To address these obstacles, Heat Risers is developing new tools and exploring potential funding mechanisms for network upgrades, aiming to facilitate the transition to sustainable heating in MOBs.

How we’re doing it

The following solutions will be built and tested to unlock the above barriers:  

  • A Pre-Application support tool to assist building owners find the most cost-effective heat decarbonisation solution for their MOBs, better inform their solution design, and streamline the business-as-usual DNO connections process; 
  • Further develop and test a Decision-Making Framework (DMF) that determines the optimal heat decarbonisation solution on a building-by-building basis; 
  • Explore alternative BNO business models to identify potential financial support for customers in MOBs exposed to higher costs. 

What makes it innovative

The Heat Risers project is innovative because it tackles the unique challenges of making MOBs more energy-efficient in a way that hasn’t been tried before. It introduces new tools, like the DMF and Pre-Application Support Tool, which help building owners make smart choices about heat systems. These tools fill a gap in the market by providing clear, tailored advice that existing guides don’t offer. 

Additionally, the project explores new funding models to help cover the costs of upgrading heating systems in MOBs, which has not been done before. By looking into these new funding options and gathering data from various sources, the project aims to reduce the high costs that often stop these upgrades from happening. 

Overall, Heat Risers offers practical, scalable solutions to make heating in MOBs more sustainable, helping to move towards Net Zero emissions. This makes the project a groundbreaking effort in the field of building energy efficiency. 

What we’re learning

From the findings of the project so far, it’s clear that the costs of decarbonising heat in multi-occupancy buildings vary significantly based on factors like building complexity and existing infrastructure issues such as access challenges or asbestos presence. 62,000 buildings may be left behind in the transition to low-carbon heating within UK Power Networks’ area if no action is taken 

Moreover, the lack of detailed data on the condition and capacity of internal building networks complicates decision-making for implementing low-carbon heating solutions. While the project has so far engaged with various stakeholders to gather insights, there remains a significant gap in industry-wide evidence necessary for effective heat decarbonisation strategies. 

Furthermore, the research underscores the complexity in determining the most cost-effective heat decarbonisation solutions for MOBs. While upgrading internal building networks to install heating solutions in individual flats appears economical for the majority of MOBs, communal heat systems may be more suitable for certain buildings to manage costs associated with network reinforcements. 

These insights highlight the need for targeted solutions, robust data collection efforts, and innovative funding mechanisms to address the barriers hindering the widespread adoption of sustainable heating in MOBs within UK Power Networks’ area. 

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