Waste heat, it’s a no-brainer, right? It’s already there, it’s low carbon, and it can be very cheap. BEIS (Department for Busi- ness, Energy & Industrial Strategy, UK) has identified 8 TWh/yr with economic potential (source) . So why aren’t we using more of it? To answer this question, we need to look not at the heat networks industry, but at industrial sectors that produce waste heat. Here, I’m going to explore how putting ourselves in the shoes of a prospective waste heat supplier might help reframe the way we think and communicate about waste heat.
For those producing energy or managing industrial processes, this is generally not the main way they think about waste heat. They are not waste heat producers; waste heat is just part of their waste streams. It’s a waste stream because high-temper- ature heat cannot be released into the environment around us, according to environmental regulations in the UK. It must first be cooled to reduce the environmental impact of the heat and minimise thermal pollution. Thermal pollution occurs when human influence changes ambient water temperature. This can reduce the oxygen content in bodies of water and induce thermal shock in aquatic life, ultimately impacting our ecosys- tem. This creates a need for cooling. Something interesting happens when we look at industrial waste heat as a cooling need. Instead of looking at waste heat as a resource, it becomes a cooling problem that we need to solve . This is the perspective of the prospective heat supplier. This fundamentally changes how we should approach discus- sions with high-temperature industries about waste heat.
Waste heat or a cooling need? Heat networks as a cooling service
Another way to look at industrial waste heat is as a cooling need. This is how it’s often looked at in Denmark, a country where around 28% of heat supplied to heat networks is surplus heat from energy from waste (EfW) or industrial processes. Heat is a product of energy production, and it’s a by-product of industrial processes. In the heat networks industry, we call this waste heat, and we see it as a potential opportunity for a low-carbon, low-cost source of heat that contributes to a more efficient economy.
Ultimately, waste heat is not the core business of an EfW, whose core business is managing waste. It’s not the core busi-
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