Following the government’s pledge to ban gas boilers in new builds from 2025, the search for alternative heating solutions has gained momentum; with low-carbon heat recognised as one of the biggest challenges facing the country as we look to decarbonise.

District and community heating schemes are becoming an increasingly popular low-carbon method of heating properties, currently estimated to supply only 2% of UK households. However, the Committee on Climate Change predict that they could provide 20% of the UK’s heating requirements by 2050.

A growing number of schemes across the UK are harnessing waste heat from energy centres, power plants, factories and rivers to warm homes, with the Greater London Authority estimating enough heat is wasted across London to meet 38% of the city’s heating demands. It’s thought this figure could increase to 63% by 2050, considering the rapid expansion of district heating schemes utilising wasted heat.

In Islington around 700 households are warmed by waste heat produced at the Bunhill Energy Centre, which generates electricity, via a combined heat and power (CHP) system. The second phase of the scheme, a joint project between Islington Council, TFL and Ramboll, will see a further 450 homes added to the network by the end of the year, harnessing waste heat from the Northern Line.

Whilst viability studies of such a scheme have been conducted elsewhere, Islington’s scheme is believed to be the first in the world to be put into practice. It has also been claimed that passengers of the Northern Line will benefit from cooler tunnels.

A TFL spokesman said channelling heat from London’s underground could be a “significant low-carbon energy source” adding “we are also carrying out further research to identify opportunities for similar projects across the network.”

Going underground: Northern Line to heat hundreds of homes this winter