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SGN, Vital Energi to develop low-carbon heat networks

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UK gas distribution company SGN has partnered with Vital Energi to develop low- and zero-carbon heat networks.

Under the ‘ground-breaking’ 50:50 joint venture, SGN and renewable energy solutions provider Vital Energi will develop, own and operate low- and zero-carbon heat networks.

The joint venture will create an Energy Services Company, representing the UK’s leaders in utility infrastructure and heat networks to provide affordable and low-carbon infrastructure. This includes the delivery of heat to developments planned by SGN’s property arm, SGN Place, and the local areas where there is demand for low-carbon heat.

Heat networks are a distribution system of buried pre-insulated pipes which take heat from a central source and deliver it to buildings. They form an important part of the UK’s low-carbon future, said SGN, as their efficiency and carbon-saving potential increases as they grow and connect.

It is estimated that the heat network market requires around £30 billion (€35.2 billion) of investment by 2050 to meet the government’s net-zero targets, and the decarbonisation of heat has been highlighted as a particular challenge where heat networks can offer a solution.

The Climate Change Committee’s Sixth Carbon Budget suggests the UK should target 20% of UK heat demand through low-carbon heat networks by 2050.

Together, SGN and Vital Energi have ambitious plans to establish solutions to this challenge across strategically located sites. These locations are a combination of SGN’s redundant sites and others, which will be developed over time through Vital’s existing market presence.

The aim 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 of England, with another 20 in the pipeline.

Marcus Hunt, SGN’s director of commercial services and investments, said: “We’re looking to develop alternative heat solutions alongside our 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.

“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.”

Vital Energi’s chief strategy officer Nick Gosling added: “We’re really excited to be extending our asset ownership portfolio and working alongside SGN on regeneration initiatives that will revolutionise the heat network market.

“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.”