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District energy

Decarbonising heat in UK Towns and Cities

29. April 2024

Solution provider


Ramboll is a leading international architecture, engineering, and consultancy company, owned by the Ramboll Foundation.

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In the UK, heat represents approximately 50% of energy demand, yet heat in buildings is only supplied by ~6% renewable energy, far behind electricity decarbonisation, which has driven the UK’s decarbonisation since 1990. With 80% of current buildings likely to remain by 2050, reducing and decarbonising heat in buildings is crucial to meeting net zero targets.  

The challenge is to accelerate heat decarbonisation in the UK by developing a national methodology for heat network zoning involving 28 pilot towns and cities in England. The aim is to provide a methodology to identify where heat networks could provide the lowest cost low carbon solution to decarbonise heating in buildings in a defined geographical area – a ‘heat network zone’. The methodology will assist local authorities in implementing heat network zoning under the powers and obligations of the Energy Act 2023. 


Since 2023 Ramboll, has been supporting the UK Government Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (Previously Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) on the development of three of the 28 city partners to identify potentially viable zones for large-scale heat network deployment.  

A robust data-driven evidence base has been taken to ensure successful rollout of the methodology, starting in 2024, with construction of ‘advanced zones’ beginning in 2025.


Equipped with a robust data-driven evidence base that the zoning methodology will provide, local authorities and councils will be able to confidently plan and implement programs of investment and infrastructure systems that enable heat decarbonisation, potentially partnering with the private sector to harness wider skills, experience and funding. Ramboll is also supporting many organisations in the design of heat networks from individual sites to large, city-scale solutions.  

Through strategic planning of heat networks, scale and interconnection can be achieved, and greater efficiencies and carbon savings delivered. The UK is at a pivotal moment in setting a long-term pathway to low carbon heat in buildings.