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Call for District Heating Quality Standards

A director of the UK’s longest-established manufacturer of pre-insulated pipe systems used for district heating has called for an industry-wide system of quality standards to be established. He has warned that, without it, the rapid growth that the sector is experiencing may see a repeat of the same mistakes made during the last boom of the 1970s and 80s that led to catastrophic system failures.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC)’s report published in the spring of 2012: The future of heating: A strategic framework for low carbon heat, highlighted the key role that district heating will play in lowering carbon emissions and it is clear that the technology’s market share is set to increase in the coming years – particularly as it is estimated that around 50 percent of carbon emissions come from an increasing need for space heating and hot water.

Mark Whettall, managing director of the Hampshire-based pre-insulated pipe manufacturer CPV Ltd, said: “Whilst we whole heartily welcome growth in the uptake of district heating in the UK and the confidence that DECC has placed in the technology’s ability to help decarbonise heating and hot water supplies, it is critical that our industry steps up collectively and establishes a system of quality standards to cover all aspects of district heating networks.”

“Whilst there are many, good-quality suppliers in the sector, the increase of new projects will undoubtedly lead to an influx of designers and installers with little or no experience of district heating network infrastructure entering the market. It is of the utmost importance that all stakeholders concerned with the manufacture, planning, design, installation, operation and maintenance of the next generation of district heating networks take every possible care to ensure that the costly mistakes of the 1970s and 80s are not repeated.”

Whettall went on to explain that a many of the earlier problems arose when social housing providers, often inspired by the technology’s success in Scandinavian countries such as Denmark and Sweden, chose gas, coal and oil-fired district heating for the new homes built to replace the once-ubiquitous back-to-back terraced housing.

Hundreds of kilometres of underground district heating pipes were installed to supply the new homes, but there was little or no serious consideration given to the design or quality of the installation.
Whettall continued: “Standards and specifications from other sectors of the heating industry were wrongly applied and although there were some successes, there were many more failures. In the decades that followed, many local authorities abandoned their district heating systems in favour of decentralised gas heating, but fortunately some, undaunted, recognised the true potential of the technology and they persisted.”

These schemes, in cities such as Sheffield, Nottingham and the City of London, paved the way for today’s new generation of district heating networks and clearly demonstrated how successful the technology could be when introduced properly.

Whettall concluded: “Collectively, we need to ensure that system owners and developers insist that their supply chain all use the new quality standards and all manufacturers work together to provide accredited training for the designers, installers and supervisors.”

“I’m very positive for the future for our industry, otherwise I wouldn’t have committed more than £1million into expanding my company’s own production, warehousing, design and training facilities; but without checks and balances being put into place and enforced by scheme owners and developers, the reputation of the technology at such a critical stage in its development will be put at risk and moreover, threaten the UK’s ability to tackle a sizeable proportion of the UK’s carbon emissions.

“A working group quickly needs to be established to bring together government agencies, local authorities, suppliers and their trade bodies such as the CHPA and UKDEA. I’d be delighted to discuss this with any like-minded colleague and see if we can start the ball rolling.”


Notes to Editors

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