Decentralised Energy: Could London Emulate Copenhagen?

Written by Luke Hildyard, Peter North and Bob Fiddik on 5 February 2013

World Cities Network is pleased to present the following report by the Future of London, an independent, not-for-profit forum and policy unit focused on the big challenges facing urban regeneration, housing and economic development practioners.

In March and April 2012, Future of London and UCL held a seminar series, London 2062, looking at the challenges facing London over the next 50 years. The first seminar focused on London’s energy future, and the participants heard from a number of academics and practitioners. All the experts mentioned ‘the Danish model’ at some point or other, and it became clear that many feel that this is a reference point from which lessons could be drawn to ensure London’s long-term energy security, and in the face of stringent carbon reduction targets.

District heating in the Greater Copenhagen area. Source: Copenhagen Energy

Principally, the Danish model is a Decentralised Energy network using Combined Heat and Power (CHP). Decentralised Energy (DE) is defined by the GLA as the local generation of electricity and where appropriate, the recovery of the surplus heat (combined heat and power – CHP) for purposes such as building space heating and domestic hot water production. CHP is often used in District Heating systems, with the heat generated as a by-product of electricity generation being pumped into homes, either as hot water or as steam, through networks of reinforced pipes.

The Danish model relies heavily on CHP for District Heating, and they found that it requires approximately
30 per cent less fuel than separate heat and power plantsi. However, it should be noted that CHP is one fuel source for both District Heating and DE, and a number of alternatives can be used in both cases. Plus London is already utilising, or working towards using, a number of other urban heat sources

Nationwide, Denmark provides 60 per cent of its space and water heating through district heating. In Copenhagen, the figure is 98 per cent. This compares with 1-2 per cent in the UK, and approximately 5 per cent in London.

Of course, this isn’t necessarily a fair comparison; London’s population is around two and a half million higher than the whole of Denmark. But it demonstrates how Denmark began a concerted national effort to reduce its fuel usage in the 1970s, at the same time as the UK decided that its energy security could be found in North Sea Oil and privatisation.

The following collection of essays investigates the Danish model in more detail, and considers whether lessons from their experiences can truly be applied in London. Firstly, Luke Hildyard gives an overview of Danish energy policy, which is considered to be a European exemplar, and outlines the main challenges to London following in its footsteps. Peter North then outlines the regional efforts taking place to grow London’s urban District Heating network. Finally, Bob Fiddik, LB Croydon, provides a technical perspective on the challenges of decarbonising London’s current energy landscape, and suggests some policies that could help overcome them.

To read the collection of essays, please click here

Categories: Energy and water, Regulation, London, Copenhagen