How heating our homes could help reduce climate change

Sep 21, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- A radical new heating system where homes would be heated by district centres rather than in individual households could dramatically cut the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions.

In a series of reports to be presented at a major conference this week, scientists at The University of Manchester claim using sustainable wood and other biofuels could hold the key to lowering harmful .

Building district heating schemes which would provide heat and hot water for a neighbourhood or community would not only drastically reduce greenhouse gases but would also be highly cost effective, the authors claim.

Focus groups to test the UK public’s eagerness for such schemes have already been held and have resulted in the majority of people being in favour of the localised centres.

The plans would only provide cost savings if the demand is very steady. Otherwise large scale dedicated electricity plants become the most cost effective way to save greenhouse gases with , with costs per unit of carbon saved around half that of a smaller facility.

The reports state that using wood in UK power stations gave greenhouse gas reductions of over 84% and even higher savings of 94% were possible for heating schemes.

Prepared by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research to highlight the effectiveness of using sustainable fuels rather than rely on fossil fuels, the series of reports will be presented this week at the UK’s first bio conference - BioTen - which begins in Birmingham today (Tuesday 21st).

Author Dr Patricia Thornley suggests using a number of supply chains, including imported forest residues and local grown , would reduce emissions and save on .

The key is that biomass must be grown sustainably, taking into account potential for damage to the environment or undesirable socio-economic impacts.

Previous work by University of Manchester researchers took this into account in concluding that sustainable biomass could supply at least 4.9% of the UK’s total energy demand.

Realising that potential could result in savings of 18 Mt of carbon dioxide every year, which is equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions associated with around 2.7 million households.

Dr Patricia Thornley, from the School of Mechanical Aerospace and Civil Engineering at The University of Manchester, said: “Bioenergy could play a very important part in helping the UK meet greenhouse gas reduction targets that will help to reduce the impact of climate change.

“Heating homes with wood reduces greenhouse gas emissions because plants and trees absorb carbon dioxide when they are growing and then re-release it when they are burnt for heating - so the only increase in greenhouse gas emissions are those involved in things like harvesting and processing the fuel.

“This work has taken a detailed look at all those emissions and established that even when we take them into account, there are still huge greenhouse gas savings to be made.

“If we can combine the low-carbon wood with really efficient heating systems, that offers an efficient and cost-effective route to reducing the .

“The challenge for the industry now is to concentrate on developing new efficient and cost-effective technologies for production and to concentrate on getting the heating technologies deployed in the right environment.”

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User comments : 8

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gwrede
4 / 5 (4) Sep 21, 2010
They should go to places like Helsinki, where this kind of heating has been the norm for decades. And it even works with an uneven energy demand. (Last summer 35C, last winter -20C.)
SDMike2
3.8 / 5 (4) Sep 21, 2010
Excellent idea. Now the politicians can cut off your heat if you disagree with them.
GSwift7
4 / 5 (1) Sep 22, 2010
This is a really peculiar article. I'm not sure what the point of it was.

They seem to be saying that they have discovered some new knowledge but then they just state a few well-known facts about sustainable energy. The only part that really looks new here is the result of the opinion poll that barely gets mentioned at the top. Then they threw in several debateable points of opinion regarding climate change and greenhouse gasses which really have nothing to do with the subject at hand. Then to close out the article with an even worse ending than the rest of it, they mention that the technology needed to make this a reality doesn't exist. lol, all industry needs to do is figure out how to do it. Are they kidding?

This article sounds like something my 14 year old would write for science class. Not that it's wrong, it's just not very good or professional.
kuro
5 / 5 (2) Sep 22, 2010
Well, I have lived for over 30 years in a country, which has had central heating ever since the Communist government built it. So let me introduce you to some of the benefits.

First, when a pipe bursts, your heating and hot water's gone. Depending on the size of the problem, it may be gone for a day, or few. Having a few of these http://img843.ima...0102.jpg is essential. Having thick blankets and a fireplace is also very useful.

Second, you have no opt-out. To heat buildings centrally, the government will pass a law that will mandate you use it. Even if it becomes expensive, worthless, defective, you won't be able to get out easily, or at all.

And you'll be at the mercy of the heating authority for the heat, for the price, for the administration.

One day, when the government goes bust (as it does every once in a while), they'll sell the heating authority to a private company. The newly created monopoly will rape you further.
kuro
5 / 5 (2) Sep 22, 2010
Before it is built your city will suffer a decade of pipe laying. Are they including the costs of that, the maintenance and the heat loss in the calculation?

Once built, especially by a local government, it won't see much of a technological improvement at all. Other, in-house units may start using cold fusion and be "too cheap to measure", but not your heat and hot water ;)

Moving the heating plant of a small residential area into the residential area, and making it burn all kind of low-calorie junk, "including imported forest residues and local grown energy crops" will highly improve the delivery of soot to your neighborhood.

The pretty view of a chimney stack and a cooling tower will, undoubtedly, raise the value of your property.

I mean, what's not to like from the vision of the centralized heating that smart Ms. Patricia has lifted straight from the 50s Soviet Union?
Curtix
4 / 5 (2) Sep 23, 2010
Control, control, control.
The big government fat cats can not get enough.
Through a "Good for the environment" tag on it and take away the freedoms of the sheeple.
lengould100
5 / 5 (2) Sep 23, 2010
Should have merits, but centrally generating the heat (or cooling?) and delivering it through suburbs by pipeline will be a costly killer. The correct way is to generate bio-methane centrally in gassifiers and distribute the methane via existing natural gas distribution systems. Then develop micro-CHP generator / boilers to provide hot water and electricity at each home.

Much smarter.
GSwift7
5 / 5 (1) Sep 23, 2010
Yes lengould100, that would be smarter, but they have an opinion poll which shows that the majority of people are stupid. I'm sure the poll was worded in a way that made the proposition sound "green" which makes people "feel good" though. There's a part of this article that seems to sugest a heat/power plant in every neighborhood. Oh yeah, that sounds great. So we'll have a local heating and power administration for every neighborhood then? Oh boy, I want one of those green jobs that will be created if they actually get away with this. Can I be the neighborhood heating czar? Muahahahaha. :)