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Spatially explicit techno-economic optimisation modelling of UK heating futures

Li, FGN; (2013) Spatially explicit techno-economic optimisation modelling of UK heating futures. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis describes the use of a spatially explicit model to investigate the economies of scale associated with district heating technologies and consequently, their future technical potential when compared against individual building heating. Existing energy system models used for informing UK technology policy do not employ high enough spatial resolutions to map district heating potential at the individual settlement level. At the same time, the major precedent studies on UK district heating potential have not explored future scenarios out to 2050 and have a number of relevant low-carbon heat supply technologies absent from their analyses. This has resulted in cognitive dissonance in UK energy policy whereby district heating is often simultaneously acknowledged as both highly desirable in the near term but ultimately lacking any long term future. The Settlement Energy Demand System Optimiser (SEDSO) builds on key techno-economic studies from the last decade to further investigate this policy challenge. SEDSO can be distinguished from other models used for investigating UK heat decarbonisation by employing a unique combination of extensive spatial detail, technical modelling which captures key cost-related nonlinearities, and a least-cost constrained optimisation approach to technology selection. The study yields a number of original contributions to knowledge that are relevant for policymakers. Results described in the thesis suggest that the marginal economics of UK district heating schemes are significantly improved when compared against individual heat pumps rather than gas boilers. This is relevant because under current policy direction individual heat pumps are likely to be the major counterfactual option to district heating post-2030. Results also illustrate how assumptions about technology availability can drive large shifts in optima, and that utility-scale electric heat pumps could be a key enabling technology for district heating to supply a large fraction of UK heat demand in a post-gas heating future.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Spatially explicit techno-economic optimisation modelling of UK heating futures
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Keywords: Energy modelling, District heating, Heat networks, Decarbonisation, Optimisation, Built Environment, Energy policy, Energy planning
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment > Bartlett School Env, Energy and Resources
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1400217
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