Working together for a resilient Birmingham.

Water Source Heat Map Launched

Rivers and estuaries in cities and towns across England could provide clean, reliable heating to thousands of homes and businesses, a map published today has shown.

The map shows that there are around 40 urban rivers (including the River Cole in Birmingham) and estuaries that could provide large-scale renewable heating supplies to local communities through water source heat pumps, instead of traditional gas-fired or electric domestic heating.

Water source heat pumps operate by taking heat from the water and feeding it into local heat networks or single buildings, providing a low-carbon source of renewable heat to local areas.

The map is designed to help local authorities, private developers and community groups to identify prime locations to install large water source heat pumps, by aligning suitable bodies of water with areas where there is a high demand for heat.

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey said:

“It sounds like magic but using proven technology we can now extract some of the heat in our rivers and estuaries and use that energy to heat our homes and offices.

“I want to help communities across England use our waterways for this renewable heat and this new map is designed to help communities, councils and developers identify the most promising opportunities. If we can succeed on the large scale, it would cut Britain’s import bill and boost our home-grown supplies of clean, secure energy.”

The map identifies rivers and estuaries that could accommodate heat pumps with the capacity to each generate more than 1 megawatt of power – which is enough to provide heating and hot water to around 400 – 500 homes.

Heat networks work by supplying heating to buildings and homes from a centralised local source through a system of insulated pipes. Local heat networks currently only provide a small fraction of the overall heating demand in the UK (2%) and the Government is keen to provide support to see significant growth in this industry.

This map is the first of its kind to be published in the UK and offers high-level information to help developers with their initial project scoping. A more detailed version of the map is expected to be published in the winter and will form an important part of the new National Heat Map, which is currently being developed.

Notes to editors

  1. The water source heat map is published on GOV.UK
  2. In January 2014, DECC published the UK’s first Community Energy Strategy. The strategy includes a series of ambitious new measures including a new dedicated Community Energy Unit within the department to take the work forward and support activity on the ground. Community Energy projects can include saving energy and collective purchasing or switching, as well as localised electricity and heat generation – such a solar and wind farms, heat networks and hydro energy.
  3. The National Heat Map is a publicly accessible, interactive web-based map showing the level of heat demand across England. It includes residential, commercial, industrial, public buildings and total heat demands, and aims to support planning and deployment of local low-carbon energy projects in England. An updated version of the National Heat Map is currently being developed and will incorporate additional information, including the detailed water source heat pumps map.

The National Heat Map was commissioned by DECC and created by The Centre for Sustainable Energy.

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