Eco Innovation

London homes to be kept warm by waste heat from data centres

3rd November 2023
Paige West

In a step towards greener energy use, the UK will utilise waste heat from data centres to warm thousands of homes.

This initiative is part of a broader scheme involving nearly £65 million of government funding allocated to five eco-friendly heating projects across the nation.

The Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation, spanning the London boroughs of Hammersmith and Fulham, Brent, and Ealing, is set to become the first project of its kind in the UK. This novel approach will exploit the waste heat produced by vast computer systems, which typically store internet data, to provide heating solutions for the local community.

Supported by £36 million in government funding, the heat network will connect 10,000 new homes and 250,000m² of commercial space to a low-carbon energy source. This initiative is not just aimed at reducing energy bills for residents but is also a significant stride towards the UK's commitment to achieving net zero by 2050.

The project is one of the five green heating initiatives in London, Watford, Suffolk, and Lancaster that have been granted funds from the Green Heat Network Fund. These projects collectively aim to generate thousands of skilled jobs, aligning with the government’s economic growth objectives.

Lancaster University has secured over £21 million to fully transition to a decarbonised campus. This will involve a new low-carbon heat network that draws heat from a large pump powered by a newly commissioned solar farm and an existing wind turbine.

Claire Coutinho, the Energy Security Secretary, affirmed the UK's leadership in carbon emission reduction, highlighting that these innovative projects allow families to heat their homes with low-carbon, recycled heat while supporting job creation in new skilled sectors.

Lord Callanan, the Minister for Energy Efficiency and Green Finance, remarked that utilising waste heat from technological sources offers a window into a sustainable future, underlining the UK's innovative capabilities in reducing carbon emissions.

Heat networks, integral to the UK's carbon reduction strategy, provide centralised heating and hot water to multiple buildings, reducing reliance on individual, less energy-efficient heating systems like gas boilers. With building heating accounting for 30% of all UK emissions, the move towards heat networks is a critical component of the nation’s environmental commitments.

This round of funding supplements an earlier £122 million investment supporting 11 new heat network projects, courtesy of the government’s Green Heat Network Fund.

The latest beneficiaries include the Old Oak Park Royal Development Corporation, a new eco-friendly housing estate in Chilton Woods, Suffolk, the South Kilburn District Heat Network in the London Borough of Brent, Watford Community Housing, and Lancaster University's new low carbon energy centre.

Matthew Basnett from the Association for Decentralised Energy (ADE) voiced his support for the initiative, stating that heat networks are a proven international solution for large-scale heat decarbonisation, yet their potential remains largely underappreciated.

David Lunts, Chief Executive of the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC), expressed enthusiasm for the innovative recycling of heat from local data centres, which not only aligns with the mayor’s net zero ambitions but also paves the way for a sustainable infrastructure that will benefit Londoners in Old Oak and Park Royal for generations to come.

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