Clean heat: coordinating the switch street by street 

Andy Mardsen, designer for the sustainable future mission at Nesta, the UK’s innovation charity, shares his work on co-designing an area-based approach to the planning and delivery of low-carbon heat.

We recently shared an update from a project we have been working on at Nesta, to address how we might enable the switch to low-carbon heat across streets and neighbourhoods. We’re now ready to test an ambitious approach to the coordinated planning and delivery of low-carbon heat. 

  • Could more homes be offered the chance to switch to low-carbon heat by taking a coordinated approach, on a street-by-street basis?
  • If so, what may be the best way to deliver that?

If you’re already involved in the delivery of low-carbon heat, read on to see how you can get involved.

Changing the approach to low-carbon heating

The current approach to transitioning to low-carbon heating is primarily market-led and based on individual choice. Individual homeowners decide whether and when to switch to low-carbon heating in isolation. Businesses develop technologies and services and try to sell them to households. The government provides some incentives and support for low-carbon heating but does not significantly plan or guide the process.

This individual-led approach has problems and risks, which will become more apparent as the transition to low-carbon heating progresses. 

If we can identify a workable model to plan and deliver the coordinated switch to low-carbon heat, there will be more scope for delivering quickly and en-masse in the UK.  By working with those who may be involved in delivering coordinated planning and delivery of low-carbon heat, we hope to build confidence in our approach, while de-risking it and improving the ease with which suggestions could be adopted.

Turning a policy note into a blueprint for development

Nesta has drafted a policy note  that argues the UK will need to:

  1. do more active planning on low-carbon heating
  2. make more use of coordinated approaches to low-carbon heating, such as street-by-street switching and shared infrastructure.

This project will work with Government, industry stakeholders and citizens to test this note to co-create and map a blueprint to visualise the actors, steps and interactions and connect the theory to the reality of how it is delivered. 

We’re keen to learn from those who may already be testing and delivering coordinated approaches to low-carbon heat, highlighting the areas where new organisations or capabilities may need to be developed and suggesting structures and requirements of these.

How will it work?

The development of the blueprint will involve those working in the low-carbon heating transition at every step. 

Phase one will see us laying the groundwork, to create a visual blueprint capturing the policy’s implementation journey, identifying key actors and their intricate connections. We will work with those who may be already delivering elements of the blueprint, such as those already preparing local energy plans.

In phase two we’ll continue to work with stakeholders, to co-create and refine the blueprint conception. We’ll run a series of workshops to identify potential roadblocks and areas requiring deeper exploration. 

And then in phase three, we’ll iterate for impact, drawing on valuable insights from stakeholders, highlighting key recommendations for improvement, ensuring the approach is comprehensive and effective. This collaborative process centred on feedback and iteration, aims to deliver a broadly supported policy.

We are looking for people from across the planning and delivery of low-carbon heat to contribute to this project. If you’re interested in attending any of our workshops please register your interest.

Nesta will be at InstallerSHOW 2024, running 25-27 June at the NEC. Join them by registering for your FREE ticket: