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Manchester could unlock £18.2bn by decarbonising heating

Greater Manchester could secure £18bn in investment by implementing heat networks to decarbonise heating in homes and buildings, according to a new report

Greater Manchester could unlock £18.2 billion of new investment by decarbonising the heating of homes and buildings through heat networks, according to the Association for Decentralised Energy (ADE).

The ADE’s latest research explores the potential of heat networks and their value to the region, emphasising the need for new energy infrastructure to meet legally binding net zero targets.

The ADE suggests that city-scale heat networks are essential for decarbonising homes and buildings in Greater Manchester, moving away from gas boilers to cleaner solutions.

Heat networks use underground pipes to distribute heat from a central source to multiple buildings, which can be harvested from rivers, waste plants or the metro system.

This method is less emissions-intensive and more efficient, potentially meeting the majority of Greater Manchester’s heat demand and attracting substantial investment to the local economy.

Implementing this level of heat network deployment would require 4,839 kilometres of pipework to be installed, providing 17.7TWh of heat to homes by 2050.

The ADE warns that unless both public and private sectors act swiftly to decarbonise large buildings and adopt low carbon heat technologies, the region could miss out on billions of pounds in investment and the creation of new jobs, potentially delaying these benefits by more than a decade.

Under a high ambition scenario, heat networks could meet 17.7TWh of demand by 2050, with most of this demand added to networks by 2030.

This falls to 14TWh of demand in a low ambition scenario, where most of this demand is not added until the mid-2040s.

The high ambition scenario predicts an estimated £18.2 billion in capital expenditure (capex), with investment peaking in 2029.

The low ambition scenario predicts a total capex of £14.3 billion, with investment peaking in 2040.

Councillor Tom Ross, Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s lead for Green City-Region, said: “Heat networks also have the potential to help reduce the cost of energy for residents and businesses, and support good, green jobs.

“That’s why we’ve been working with the government on a heat network pilot, and why we’ll carry on working to capture the benefits that green growth can bring for our people and places.”

Freddie Wilkinson, Senior Policy and Data Analyst at the ADE, said: “Adding the region’s public and private-non domestic buildings onto heat networks by the early 2030s could increase the heat demand met by heat networks more than 20 times over and unlock billions in investment.

“Public buildings already account for 90% of the heat demand met by heat networks across the region, so there is amazing potential for Greater Manchester to build on this foundation to meet its climate goals.”

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