The UK Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) has added its weight to calls for the large-scale development of CHP and district heating technology – as a way to end the wastage of large amounts of heat currently generated at power-only power stations. Heat could be sent to new district heating schemes.

The UK is missing out on the opportunity to recycle and reuse waste heat produced in the electricity generation process to heat our homes and business, according to a new report: Why Waste Heat? from the ICE.

Currently, heat production accounts for 49% of all primary energy consumed in the UK, far more than in the production of electricity or that used in the transport sector. The report, based on new research undertaken by the University of Southampton Sustainability Energy Research group, states that the use of CHP technology would allow the capture and re-use of waste heat produced in the electricity generation process, cutting energy consumption and carbon emissions.

The report explains that heat recovery from existing centralized power stations could meet 5% of UK current heating demand by 2020. This would largely be achieved through the introduction of CHP and district heating networks at specific locations, where there is a significant population within a 10 km radius of a viable power station, such as those at Drax, Ferrybridge and Eggborough.

According to the report, by far the most efficient method of heat capture is decentralized CHP and district heating, of the sort used successfully in Scandinavia and other parts of Europe where smaller power stations are located close to centre of population. ICE urges investigation into how a similar approach could work in the UK. In addition ICE would continue to encourage medium-scale CHP schemes such as in hospitals and universities.