Social landlords and district heating

New research project to identify barriers to uptake

Project duration: November 2015 ongoing

CSE – in partnership with Changeworks and funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) – is undertaking a programme of research to better understand the role that district and communal heating could play in social housing.

On the face of it, there is a good fit between district heating and blocks of homes owned by housing associations and local councils - not least because manage homes in concentrated clusters easily served by a heat network, and, as 'landlord', the housing association or council can benefit from economies of scale. And of course destrict heating can also help social landlords deliver energy efficient homes, tackle fuel poverty, reduce carbon emissions and improve energy security.

For this reason, social housing could be a shot in the arm for the district heating sector.

Currently, district heating networks meet just 2% of UK heat demand, compared to the 14% that some experts believe is a realistic target.

Nick Banks is managing the project for CSE. "Whilst the benefits of district heating are well recognised, previous research has identified numerous barriers to take up," he said. "There are challenges - both practical and technical - to developing and running any district heating schemes, even those in a social housing context where there is a single landlord.

"We'll be exploring in more detail how schemes are being managed, and identify in what circumstances they are successful."

This research is timely: there is considerable political will behind district heating and therefore this is a good time to develop policies to incentivise take up by social housing providers.

The project aims to:

  • Understand how housing associations manage the development and delivery of district and communal heating schemes.
  • Assess the extent to which these schemes are delivering a range of affordability and sustainability goals.
  • Consider in what context these schemes work most effectively and critical success factors.
  • Identify policy recommendations.


Part of the project involves a survey of the views and experiences of social housing providers around district heating. Click here to read more, or click here to just go to the survey. The survey will close on Friday 26 August 2016.

Here's a video CSE made back in 2011 about a biomass district heating scheme operating in a block of council flats in Barnsley.

Photo: Scott Wylie, reproduced under creative commons

For further information contact:

Dr Nick Banks | 0117 934 1418

Stay up to date with our work - sign up for our fortnightly newsletter