Sustainable Development Goals


Capturing waste energy to heat UCL’s campus

UCL supplies more than 40 of its buildings with heat and low-carbon electricity produced by its District Energy Network.

SDG case study G7.2- Operations - District Energy

8 October 2020

UCL’s District Energy Network produces heat and low-carbon electricity from a Combined Heat and Power (CHP) system. When CHP engines generate electricity, they also generate heat that, rather than being wasted is captured and used to provide heating and hot water to UCL’s buildings. We also use the electricity to power these buildings. 

“Although in the height of winter we have to top up this heat with some large gas boilers, the system saves 18% of carbon emissions a year compared to conventional heating,” says Ciaran Jebb (Sustainable UCL).  

“It will be a major contributor to our aim for UCL to be zero-carbon by 2030.” 

The system was first installed in the 1960s, but it continues to be modified to respond to the need for decarbonising heat production. Over the next decade UCL is seeking to connect to further low-carbon waste heat sources such as sewers and the Tube to capture more heat that would otherwise go to waste. “The upgraded District Energy Network will be a major contributor to our aim for UCL to be zero-carbon by 2030,” says Ciaran.  

UCL is also exploring integrating battery storage into the Network. “Producing and storing more of our own electricity at peak times reduces the demand UCL places on the national grid. This helps cut out the need for coal power stations to be fired up at times of high demand, contributing to a cleaner electricity grid for the whole country,” adds Ciaran.