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Upgrading UCL Heating Systems

You may not know, but under your feet there is a network of tunnels carrying the hot water that heats most of UCL’s buildings on the Bloomsbury Campus.

This heat is produced by a Combined Heat and Power (CHP) system. In generating electricity, the CHP engine generates waste heat. We turn the waste heat into hot water to heat our buildings and we use the electricity to power the buildings. This system saves 18% of carbon emissions a year compared to conventional heating. In the height of winter we also top-up this heat with some large gas boilers.

The system was first installed in the 1960s, and has been modified over time. Increases in the amount of renewable energy that is being produced in the UK means that the way we produce heat and electricity needs to change. We are working on a 20 year strategy for the heat network which will allow us to:

  • Integrate battery storage in the network
  • Provide cooling when the carbon emissions of grid electricity are low
  • Use more renewable energy on campus
  • Reduce our energy consumption when there is a lot of stress on the national grid (this is when electricity use has high carbon emissions as it is produced from coal-fired power stations)