This month saw the launch of the Heat Networks Industry Council (HNIC), a group that brings together industry leaders to set out a shared vision for the future of heat networks in the UK.

The Council’s members are varied, ranging from organisations who design heat networks and put pipes in the ground, to housing developers, to metering and billing companies, to us, a company who delivers market-leading hardware and data analytics across heat networks, improving performance for developers, heat suppliers, customers and our planet.

As a member of HNIC, Guru fully supports the Council’s vision to accelerate carbon reduction, support customers, create jobs, and support the creation of smart, liveable cities. How could you not? It would be difficult to argue against any of these statements.

But for the team at Guru, signing up to the Council goes beyond simply agreeing with these headline statements. Below I set out why Guru signed up and what this vision says to us.

Accelerating carbon reduction is our mission too

Guru’s vision is to accelerate the decarbonisation of heat by providing data and technology to make energy systems more transparent, lower cost and lower carbon – and so we’re delighted with the Council’s decision to include ‘Accelerating carbon reduction’ as one of the four pillars for its own vision.

We’ve long argued that to fulfil their potential, there is a requirement for heat networks to transition to low carbon heat sources. To make this transition, flow and return temperatures must come down from 80/60 and even from 70/40 to allow low and zero carbon heat sources to operate at their best.

We’ve been working on enabling this transition since long before the Council formed. Our technology supports the commissioning and operation of heat networks and has already been used to deliver 60/30 networks.

Not only that, but our award-winning online analytics platform Guru Pinpoint has been helping developers and building operators identify and resolve inefficiencies since its launch in 2016. Changes made following faults spotted using Guru Pinpoint have already reduced losses across heat networks, translating to significant savings on energy bills each year for both residents and operators, and reduced carbon emissions. So much so, that in 2019 Carbon Trust certified our Heat Networks Life Cycle Assessment Model which calculates greenhouse gas savings of 5.95 tCO2e per dwelling over ten years through the use of Guru hardware and Guru Pinpoint.

But while technology and data has been available to developers for years, we regularly see that split incentives in the industry prevent these cost and carbon savings from being realised.

Over the past eight years, Guru has witnessed first hand that while reducing inefficiency on networks is continually shown to provide the highest return on investment and carbon savings to operators, the developers who often make the initial purchase decision are not motivated by these savings. As such, when presented with solutions that may improve future performance but cost more up front, they often opt for what appear to be lower cost options.

We’re glad to see that the industry as a whole is committed to reducing carbon emissions, but we challenge the industry to overcome these split incentives to allow this vision to be achieved. We think that digitalisation of heat is where the industry must start.

HNIC’s vision in detail:
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Accelerating carbon reduction

  • Net zero carbon networks for all new schemes by 2030
  • All new and existing heat networks are net zero carbon by 2035

We’ve been helping our clients to support their customers since day one

Another of the four pillars of the Council’s vision is ‘delivering consistent and excellent customer experience’ – an essential commitment for an industry that is expected to provide up to 43% of all heating in the UK by 2050.

It can be a challenge to explain what a heat network is to a nation that is almost exclusively familiar with gas boilers, but it’s something we’re going to need to do – and fast. At Guru we’ve heard of many situations where the first time a customer has even heard of a heat network is after they move into their new home and can’t find the boiler.

Delivering a consistent and excellent customer experience will require that we as an industry build on the work we’ve already started. As the Chair of Heat Trust, the independent, non-profit consumer champion for heat networks, I’ve seen first hand how customer protection can be codified to benefit both private and social housing residents.

But an excellent customer experience doesn’t just come from regulation, it’s driven by innovation too. We thought about customer experience when we were the first to open up our technology and provide a truly open API that gives property managers the freedom to swap to more competitive metering and billing service providers without changing infrastructure or disturbing customers. We also thought about customer experience when we designed our Guru Hub II hardware with extensive input from residents, giving the opportunity for customers to engage with their energy use.

We hope that the Council’s vision drives both regulation and innovation so that we best meet the needs of all heat network customers.

HNIC’s vision in detail:

Delivering consistent and excellent customer experience

  • Consistent and excellent customer experience for all heat network users, with the overriding principle of treating customers fairly
  • And including guaranteed standards of performance, without a cost premium to the customer, at standards better than equivalent premium gas boiler heating services

Our products are future proof, ready for smart, livable cities

For anyone who knows our business, ‘efficient and low cost, digitally-enabled heat for all networks’ is our bread and butter. But for us, the pillar ‘supporting the creation of smart, liveable cities’ goes beyond heat. Our technology is multi-utility, because the digitalisation of heat will need to work alongside the digitalisation of electricity, water, cooling, vehicle charging and more if our energy systems are genuinely going to become more transparent, lower cost and lower carbon.

We welcome collaboration between developers, network operators and building managers and companies like ours to roll out the technology that will be needed to achieve this aim.

HNIC’s vision in detail:

Supporting the creation of smart, liveable cities

  • City-wide strategic heat network plans for all major cities by 2030
  • Efficient and low cost, digitally-enabled heat for all networks
  • Heat networks will be a net contributor to better air quality

Some of those thousands of jobs the industry wants to create are here at Guru!

The Council’s final pillar is ‘creating investment and jobs’ and we only have one thing to say on this, and that is come and work for us!

Some of the jobs the Council talks about will be in construction, in building management, in engineering teams – but some of them will be with us, a company developing technology that is radically reducing carbon emissions and making energy systems more transparent and lower cost for society.

We have roles we’re looking to fill now, and we’re always interested in speculative applications, so if you’re someone who wants to have a measurable impact on the decarbonisation of heat for the benefit of the environment, society and the long-term future of our planet – get in touch.

HNIC’s vision in detail:

Creating investment and jobs

  • The investment, skills and supply chain growth necessary for 18% of UK heat demand to be met through heat networks by 2050;
  • 20,000-35,000 new direct jobs in the sector by 2050
  • Investment of up to £50bn into the UK market by 2050

In conclusion

When the industry works together we can achieve great things. For us, the Heat Networks Industry Council was never going to be only for the big players. We think you need both innovators and incumbents to drive change.

We look forward to delivering our technology across even more heat networks over the coming months and years to help realise the Council’s vision.

For more information about the Heat Network Industry Council, visit https://www.hnic.uk/