May 17, 2020


energy digital
sustainable energy
sustainable ener
3 min
In recognising the importance of energy access for sustainable economic development and supporting the achievement of the Millennium Development Goal...



In recognising the importance of energy access for sustainable economic development and supporting the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, the United Nations General Assembly has marked 2012 as the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All. Speakers talking at the annual Africa Energy Indaba taking place at the Sandton Convention Centre from February 21 to 23, 2012 discussed topics such as: Which renewable technologies are the real options for Africa, To what extent is energy regulation hindering or enabling African development and How do we ensure and prioritise energy security for economic development amongst other related topics.

“The International Year of Sustainable Energy for All reminds us that sustainable energy is closely related to sustainable development. Africa’s millennium development goals have placed the end of hunger and poverty as well as environmental sustainability high on the agenda. As such we have to continuously remind ourselves that access to sustainable energy is a basic human right that can be attained in our lifetime. We need to think out of the box and take advantage of our renewable energy sources that are abundant on the continent in order to reach these goals,” says Africa Energy Indaba Managing Director Liz Hart.

About three billion people globally still rely on wood, coal, charcoal or animal waste for cooking and heating. In our current global economy this is unsustainable.

Poverty continues to plague many of Africa’s nations yet access to sustainable electricity can go a long way in improving the living conditions of the majority of the world’s population. Governments and the private sector have to realise the urgency of increasing their investments in sustainable energy technology as part of a larger effort to combat climate change.


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Christoph Frei, Secretary General of the World Energy Council added: “The World Energy Council formally supports the UN “Year of Sustainable Energy For All”. We are working closely with the UN to promote the energy access agenda and have agreed a way forward with the Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon. Secure, affordable and clean energy is a fundamental enabler to deliver sustainable development and WEC is playing a tangible role by involving its network of over 3000 organizations from the public and private sector in this agenda. The World Energy Congress in 2013 and regional meetings like the Africa Energy Indaba are important platforms for dialogue and cooperation to achieve a sustainable energy future for all.”

South Africa has made remarkable progress in widening access to electricity.  Prior to 1990, less than a third of the country’s households had access. A decade later that proportion has doubled however, more needs to be done in order to meet the initial targets set by government.

General Assembly’s Resolution 65/151 has called on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to organise and coordinate activities that will take place during the course of the year. This is all an attempt to increase awareness and stress the importance of addressing energy issues as well as access to - and sustainability of - affordable energy and energy efficiency at local, national, regional and international levels.

The Sustainable Energy for All initiative will mobilise action from governments, the private sector, and civil society partners globally. The Secretary-General has set three inter-linked objectives namely including universal access to modern energy services, improved rates of energy efficiency, and expanded use of renewable energy sources.

This he hopes will provide a vital advocacy platform for raising awareness of the global energy challenge.


Edited by Carin Hall


Issued by: Siyenza Management





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Jul 28, 2021

Industry movement with heat decarbonisation

Dominic Ellis
6 min
As SGN and Vital Energi announce 50:50 joint venture, the heat decarbonisation market is seeing some welcome movement

It is estimated that the heat network market requires approximately £30 billion of investment by 2050 to meet the UK Government’s net zero targets, and the decarbonisation of heat has been highlighted as a particular challenge.

The Climate Change Committee’s Sixth Carbon Budget states the UK should target 20% of UK heat demand through low-carbon heat networks by 2050 - but as with most discussions surrounding mass decarbonisation, even reaching that target won't be an easy task. In the UK approximately 40% of energy consumption and 20% of GHG emissions are due to the heating and hot water supply for buildings.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimate that globally, around half of all energy consumption is used for providing heat, mainly for homes and industry.

Source: Heat Trust

This week saw some positive movement, however, with gas distribution company SGN and UK renewable energy solutions provider Vital Energi announcing a 50:50 joint venture, which will create an Energy Services Company (ESCO) representing utility infrastructure and heat network providers. 

This includes delivery of heat to developments planned by SGN’s property arm, SGN Place, and the local vicinities where there is a demand for low-carbon heat.

The objective is to supply new and existing residential, industrial and commercial facilities and development activity is already underway for two projects in Scotland and the South East, with another 20 in the pipeline. SGN is looking to develop alternative heat solutions alongside its core gas distribution business and expand into the growing district heating market, recognising the future of heat is likely to include a mix of technological solutions and energy sources.

Vital Energi is seeking to expand into asset ownership opportunities to complement its core design, build and operations businesses. The complementary skillsets of both organisations will offer a compelling proposition for developers, commercial and industrial users and public sector bodies seeking low-carbon heat solutions.

SGN’s Director of Commercial Services and Investments Marcus Hunt said: “Heat networks are likely to play an increasing role in the delivery of UK heat in the context of net zero. The creation of this joint venture with market-leading Vital Energi enables us to build a presence in this emerging market, delivering new heat infrastructure and supporting decarbonisation.”

Nick Gosling, Chief Strategy Officer at Vital Energi, said: “Combining the resources, expertise and know-how of both organisations will allow us to play a major role in delivering the UK’s transition to low and zero-carbon heat.”

In March, the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) starting collaborating with Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL) to decarbonise heat and power at Kirkwall Airport through green hydrogen technology. 2G Energy was selected to deliver a CHP plant which generates heat and electricity from 100% hydrogen.

Heat decarbonisation options 

The Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) highlights the following options for decarbonising heating. 


Use renewable electricity to generate heat in the home. As power sector emissions fall, emissions associated with electric heating are decreasing rapidly.

Low carbon gases

Replace natural gas that most homes use for heating with hydrogen, which releases energy but not carbon dioxide, the only waste product is water. Biomethane is also an option as it produces less carbon than natural gas over a full lifecycle.

For hydrogen to work, the pipes in the national gas grid would need to be replaced and home boilers would need to be adapted or changed. This is possible but could incur considerable cost. 

Biomethane is chemically identical to methane from natural gas, so is suited to existing infrastructure and appliances. It is unlikely, however, that it can be produced in sufficient quantities to replace fossil gas entirely.


A hybrid system combining both electrification and hydrogen is a third option. Here, heat pumps could be used to meet the majority of heat demand, with a (low carbon) gas boiler taking over in extremely cold weather. Advantages of this approach include helping establish a market for heat pumps while hydrogen is developed to displace natural gas in the hybrid system eventually, and the ability to call on hydrogen when heat demand is at its very highest.

Heat networks

Heat networks connect a central heat source to a number of buildings via a series of underground hot water pipes, and are popular in countries such as Denmark, where heat networks supply 63% of households. The Government expects the heat networks market in the UK to grow quickly to supply up to 20% of heat demand over the next decade or so, investing £320 million into its flagship Heat Networks Investment Project to help get this underway.

Heat networks work particularly well in built-up urban areas or industrial clusters where there is a large and concentrated demand for heat. Over time, it is thought that if the central heat source can be low carbon, then there is the opportunity to ensure that multiple homes and buildings are decarbonised at once.


Biomass can be used to reduce emissions when used instead of more polluting fuels like oil in off gas grid properties. Support for biomass boilers has been available since 2011 via the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), but take-up has been low.

Supply constraints also restrict the role that biomass – burning solid material such as wood – can play. In any case, according to the Committee on Climate Change, this resource may be better used in other sectors of the economy such as construction, where it provides carbon storage without the need for CCS and reduces demand for carbon-intensive materials such as steel and cement.

The Energy Transitions Commission (ETC)'s latest report sets out how rapidly increasing demand for bioresources could outstrip sustainable supply, undermining climate mitigation efforts and harming biodiversity, unless alternative zero-carbon options are rapidly scaled-up and use of bioresources carefully prioritised.

"Alternative zero-carbon solutions, such as clean electrification or hydrogen, must be developed rapidly to lessen the need for bio-based solutions," it states.

The overall decarbonisation of industry is another major challenge, especially among four sectors that contribute 45 percent of CO2 emissions: cement, steel, ammonia, and ethylene, according to a McKinsey report. 

The process demands reimagining production processes from scratch and redesigning existing sites with costly rebuilds or retrofits. Furthermore, companies that adopt low-carbon production processes will see a short- to mid-term increase in cost, ultimately placing them at an economic disadvantage in a competitive global commodities market.

Next steps

Ken Hunnisett is Project Director for the Heat Network Investment Project (HNIP)’s delivery partner Triple Point, which is the delivery partner for the government's Heat Network Investment Project, which is responsible for investing up to £320million in strategic, low-carbon heat network projects across England and Wales.

He is calling for the urgent need to invest in the development of new heating infrastructure to support the nation’s decarbonisation effort. So far £165m of HNIP funds have prompted £421m CAPEX, providing more green jobs as the UK economy eases from the lows sustained from the pandemic.  

Decarbonising the UK's heating infrastructure is critical if we are to reach our net-zero goals and it’s crucial that progress is made in this decisive decade, he added. 

"Heat networks are a part of the lowest-cost pathway to decarbonising our homes and workplaces in the future but are also the bit of the jigsaw that we can be putting into place now," he said. "Penetration into the UK market is still low, despite heat representing 37% of UK greenhouse gas emissions, the largest single contributor by some way. Funding needs to be urgently directed towards reducing the environmental impact of the residential sector, particularly given the slow pace of the decline in residential emissions in comparison to those of business and transport."

Currently, just 3% of UK buildings are serviced by heat networks. "Further investment in this industry, using public and private funds, will not only drive wider sustainability targets but will boost the economy by providing more green jobs as the country emerges from the pandemic," he said.

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