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Durham University

Durham University News


It’s time to talk about heat

(23 January 2019)

If we told you there was a low-carbon way to meet the world’s energy demand, address climate change and rebalance energy politics, would you believe us? Well it’s true.

It is time we start focusing on heat.

Durham Energy Institute (DEI) is on a mission to show politicians, industry and the public just how important heat is and how the UK could become a world leader in effectively ‘decarbonising’ heat.

The DEI believes that through innovative re-use of waste heat and using geothermal energy, we could significantly reduce carbon emissions, and rebalance global energy politics. 

The transition to low-carbon energy has seen impressive advances. However the focus has been largely on decarbonisation of the power grid. Decarbonisation of heat has hardly begun.

Around half of all of Europe’s energy is used to heat homes and workplaces and almost all of the heat we use comes from burning fossil fuels. 

To raise awareness of this issue, DEI participated in ‘The Business Debate’ thought-leadership series in Davos, ahead of the World Economic Forum in January 2019.

The DEI has also taken part in the prestigious 2019 Bryan Lovell Meeting of The Geological Society, which this year is focused on decarbonisation of power production, heat, transport and industry.

Tapping into underground heat

According to DEI experts, geothermal energy could provide over 100 years’ worth of reliable, low-carbon energy in the UK. This includes harnessing warm water from old flooded mines deep below our cities and towns.

The team has engaged with local communities and authorities in former mining areas, and politicians nationally, on what could be a way of bringing secure affordable heat to some of the UK’s most deprived communities.

Tackling waste heat and heat loss

Heat is a precious commodity and yet we waste it. We pay to produce heat with fuel for fires and boilers; our electrical appliances in offices and industries generate heat and then we switch on more machines to cool down our buildings – generating even more heat and impacting upon climate change.

We can turn this heat into a resource to produce power, heat homes and support agriculture.

We can also reduce heat waste by making sure our buildings are properly insulated.

Heat loss represents both a huge challenge, and a big opportunity, in tackling climate change and developing more sustainable energy resources.

Find out more

  • Find out more about the Durham Energy Institute here
  • Watch Professor Jon Gluyas, Director of the DEI talking about decarbonising heat
  • Find out about energy related MSc and PhD opportunities here
  • Watch Dr Charlotte Adams discuss geothermal energy research at Durham 

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