Energetik – Turning up the Heat
Based in the London borough of Enfield and owned by the Local Authority, the idea behind Energetik is a simple one. To create a highly efficient, low carbon heating infrastructure business that is built to last that will enable the local authority to decarbonise the borough. Just as important is to protect residents by offering stable pricing and great customer service. Energetik will deliver Enfield’s residents with a safe, cost-effective, and low carbon heating alternative to gas-fired boilers.
We learn how a local authority-owned infrastructure project is leading the way for sustainable heating.
Energetik will initially make use of waste heat from the new Energy Recovery Facility (ERF) in Edmonton. By taking this unused resource that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere, Energetik will reduce connected homes’ carbon footprint for heat by over 90% when compared to a traditional gas boiler system. Heat is distributed through highly insulated pipes to residential and commercial properties across the borough, helping to combat fuel poverty, reducing carbon emissions, and improving local air quality all at once.
The company’s fuel agnostic infrastructure is designed to much higher standards than current UK best practice, and can seamlessly adapt and switch to alternative energy sources that become available, making it completely future proof. Switching or adding one piece of equipment only at the central energy centre removes the need to access thousands of individual homes to change or upgrade technology, removing risk and reducing costs well into the next century.
“The stars aligned for this infrastructure project, with the Council planning a large new 10,000 home regeneration project at Meridian Water. This new development would be situated to the Southeast of the borough and not too far away from a new highly efficient, recycling centre complete with an Energy Recovery Facility (ERF). With both being built to similar programmes, it made sense to make use of the wasted and untapped heat source and reduce carbon across the borough in the process,” explains Jayne Clare, Managing Director of Energetik.
Energetik knows and accepts that the use of waste heat generated by incineration of non-recyclable waste is not the optimal solution from a sustainability perspective. However, the company is also pragmatic.
Clare notes that “Energetik is installing a future-proof infrastructure that will last over 80 years and can make use of nearly any heating technology that may be developed. In the mid-to-long term, we hope the UK reduces the amount of waste it produces to the extent that incineration and landfill become obsolete. However, in the meantime the pipe infrastructure we are installing now will serve tens of thousands of homes with the ability to easily integrate new heat sources such as large-scale heat pumps, or other new technologies that have not yet been developed. Developing a futureproof infrastructure for a zero-carbon future is today’s mission.”
If that sounds like an unorthodox approach, in many ways Energetik is an unorthodox business. Different to many energy providers, the company is not working to make anyone rich off its profits. Instead, it is a company that works to have the greatest possible positive social impact.
“We’re 100% owned by a local authority, so we are very conscious of the social agenda as well as the environmental one,” Clare explains. “What we’re doing differently to other companies is striving to provide excellent customer care and keep our tariffs as low as possible over the long term. By socialising heat, we are not out to make huge profits; we are covering our cost of capital, with any profits circulated back into the borough for local benefit. This circular economy could be via expansion of the company, thereby reaching more homes and businesses and further reducing carbon locally and creating more jobs and skills in the area.”
Playing the Long Game
In pursuing these goals, Energetik needs to ensure that its business partners share its principles, goals, and methods.
“We put a huge amount of work into engaging and working with our plethora of stakeholders, including developers and their construction teams and our specialist contractors. This is truly a vital part of our work as we must ensure partners understand we are in this for the long game. Getting developers to sign up to our technical specification can be a challenge,” Clare admits. “Unlike Scandinavian countries, we are only at the beginning of the industry’s development in the UK, and Energetik is at the forefront of high-quality standards. This means that the longer-term approach is not something UK developers are used to just yet.”
“Most developers initially believe it’s commercially unviable to connect to our network, so we have to take them through the entire process, handholding from the start with the planning authority, demonstrating whole life costing as opposed to a scope of, say, ten years. We take them through the agreements for in-home services for the end Customer, the tariffs, the ongoing, long-term maintenance of the system,” Clare says. “We hopefully get the teams onboard by taking away a lot of the hassle. To achieve this, Energetik spends a lot of time explaining the benefits, the longevity of the technology (standardising reduces costs and complexity), the costs, the legal supply agreements, and the highest level of aftercare.
“Whatever the tenure, the end-users are without doubt the most important stakeholder in the entire process and why we do things the way we do. To protect the end-user, we steward the entire design, installation, commissioning, and handover process. For example, we measure and check that the insulation on all the components such as pipes or valves meets our technical specification and requirements. They can’t just say they’ve done it; we’ll insist on proof even if it means taking parts of a ceiling down to check.”
Developers are not the only stakeholder Energetik places special focus on when it comes to in-depth engagement.
“The general population in the UK often don’t know what district heating is, so we have to start with that. And whilst not really a challenge, we’ve had to ensure our stakeholder strategy includes this upfront information to ensure customers understand what it is and why they can’t swap energy providers” Clare points out. “Once customers are in the property and cannot fuel switch, they need to feel confident that we are working hard to provide them with the best service. Our pledge to keep prices as low as possible and our excellent service standards are really appreciated. Our annual charges have decreased two years running and we’ve gained our customers trust in that period.”
While high levels of service and fair pricing certainly do a lot of Energetik’s work for it, continual engagement with the community is still essential.
“We start by engaging with the developer, and if the development is going to be sold to a social landlord we engage with the social landlord early, so everyone is aware of the process,” Clare points out. “We hold regular come-along-and-meet-us evenings and coffee mornings for people to ask questions. We talk about the government’s environmental targets from national, regional, and local perspectives. We hold their hand right through the process until they get into the property and beyond.”
Energetik is taking on a big challenge, and it only has a small, but highly experienced and dedicated team to do it.
“There are only nine of us and we have a £100 million capital project,” Clare says. “Each member of our team has been hand-picked for their particular expertise within the industry. We are in what I call the development phase, meaning design, procure, build, and deliver the infrastructure and processes needed to deliver success. It’s critical to get the foundations right.”