The debate on whether to go nuclear is heating up in your letters pages. However there is a serious alternative to nuclear using well proven technology that can dramatically reduce carbon emissions but is virtually being ignored in the UK: District heating.
All over the UK power stations are discharging on average 60% of the energy they consume as waste heat to environment. In much of northern and eastern Europe this is distributed through insulated mains to heat buildings. In Denmark around 60% of all buildings are heated via such networks, some of which are over 100km long.
Utilisation of the waste heat can raise the efficiency of power stations to around 90% from the current derisory average of 40%. It removes the need to burn fossil fuels to heat the buildings and can operate continuously. Once a pipe network is developed, other heat sources can be exploited such as waste heat from industrial processes, waste, geothermal and other renewables.
If much of Europe can do this and avoid this immoral waste of energy, what is stopping the UK- The joint report from ICE and The Renewable Power Association published in March stated that waste could provide up to 17% of the UK electricity generated in 2020. No consideration appears to have been given to all the waste heat generated in the process.
There are a few district heating schemes operating in the UK, most notably Sheffield, Nottingham, Southampton and ourselves in Lerwick. All that is required is joined up thinking and that is where the government needs to play the central role. This appears to be seriously lacking as the main talk seems to be going the way of the nuclear lobby.
Either way, there will be a large civil engineering input but all options should be seriously debated.
Neville Martin, Shetland Heat Energy and Power Ltd, Marina Business Park, Gremista, Lerwick, Shetland ZE1 0TA