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Creating an effective Heat Decarbonisation Plan for NHS Trusts

3rd March 2021 – In our latest podcast, ‘Planning for a decarbonised future in the NHS’ we discuss the importance and benefits of developing a Heat Decarbonisation Plan (HDP) for your Trust. In this accompanying piece, we recap some of the key points discussed in the podcast and go into greater detail about what should be included in your plan.

In 2020, NHS England set out ambitious goals for decarbonisation in its report titled ‘Delivering a ‘Net Zero’ National Health Service’. Reducing the amount of natural gas used for heating will play a significant role in the NHS achieving carbon net-zero, which is one of the reasons why developing a Heat Decarbonisation Plan is so important.

Converting a large hospital to low or zero-carbon heating will cost tens of millions of pounds, so it’s worth investing in a long-term strategy to avoid unnecessary costs along the way!

Salix has already recognised the need for such plans and in the recent Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, many of the grants awarded were conditional on a heat decarbonisation plan being produced before the end of September 2021.

What is a Heat Decarbonisation Plan and what do you need to include?

The Heat Decarbonisation Plan (HDP) is defined by Salix as a starting point for an organisation to plan how it intends to replace fossil fuel reliant heating systems with low carbon alternatives (e.g. heat pumps).

The HDP will define the current state of the organisation’s energy use and its plans for reducing and/or decarbonising heat. A HDP should address the following areas:


An assessment of existing non-domestic buildings is required to answer a number of questions, such as:

  • Who pays the energy bills?
  • Is there existing (sufficient) sub-metering?
  • Is there a breakdown of heat demand for each building (kWh/m²) including floor areas?

Remember that sub-metering is essential to identify where energy is being used, but also to verify whether future changes deliver the expected results.

The Salix guidance doesn’t make reference to any energy audits, but we would recommend that such audits are carried out to get a third-party opinion on areas where quick savings can be made and also to consider some of the challenges associated with the transition to low or zero-carbon heating.


Existing resources need to be defined, along with additional resources that may be needed to deliver the heat decarbonisation plan.

  • Define responsibilities.
  • Determine whether the responsible persons will require additional training.

We recommend that the person responsible for this has the necessary seniority to make things happen.

Energy Efficiency Projects

Outline energy efficiency projects that have already been implemented and describe any that are already planned.

  • How have any future plans been factored into the transition to low-carbon heat?
  • Is there a Measurement & Verification plan in place for any proposed measures?

We recommend you always carry out an evaluation of projects when completed. If they didn’t achieve the expected results, then you need to understand why. If this happens you may want to stop a planned roll-out or go back to the supplier and remind them of the guarantees made at the start of the project.

Heat Networks

The organisation must consider whether they could be connected to an existing or future heat network scheme (district heating).

  • Are any heat network developments planned in the area?
  • Could the site provide a baseload heat demand for a future heat network?
  • Are there any other sources of secondary heating in proximity to the buildings e.g. air, water, ground for heat pumps or heat recovery opportunities (e.g. from nearby data centre) or from waste to energy?

Electrical Loading Capacity

The plan must determine whether the site has sufficient electrical capacity for future projects.

  • Are further energy efficiency measures available that can reduce electrical capacity?
  • Can the agreed electrical capacity be increased?

However, the Salix guidance only asks you to consider the increased capacity that would exist if gas heating were replaced by electric heating systems. When considering future capacity requirements, we recommend that you also consider the impact of electric vehicle charging.

Evidence Packs

An evidence pack that brings together information such as:

  • Display Energy Certificates (DEC’s)
  • Building Inventories
  • Energy & maintenance costs
  • Emissions reduction targets
  • Public scrutiny of anything to do with Sustainability is likely to increase over the coming years, so it’s important that records are maintained.


This section covers local/national planning requirements and longer-term plans for the organisation:

  • Are there any planning restrictions for the area?
  • Any plans (in the public domain) for expansion or rationalisation of the site, or new builds at the same or nearby sites?
  • Planning guidance for heat & energy efficiency in new builds.
  • Building standards & building regulations.

These are areas where you will probably want input from your planning advisors rather than your energy consultants.

Risks and Opportunities

This last section requires a risk and opportunities assessment to be carried out. The challenges in decarbonising heat in buildings are as follows:

  • Are any of the buildings listed?
  • What options are available?
  • What resources are required?
  • Are partnership agreements in place for timely delivery?
  • Are public consultations needed?
  • Any border/boundary issues?
  • Other environmental issues?

The roadmap to decarbonisation will need to define what the destination will look like and the milestones that are needed to get there. However, the speed of transition will depend on several external factors including:

  • The cost of gas v electricity.
  • Availability of capital grants for new equipment or for building upgrades.
  • Changes in legislation.

What does the NHS actually need?

As discussed in detail on our recent podcast (link), the Salix requirements apply to all public sector organisations and therefore doesn’t necessarily address the specific requirements of the NHS. Therefore, Inenco recommends that your HDP should include the following, additional elements:

  • NHS Targets – set the context for the people who will agree on the HDP.
  • Site surveys.
  • EV capacity estimates.
  • Review of Multiple Options to meet either the net-zero target or at least to minimise the heating carbon footprint as much as is possible. Do you look at 2040 targets only or do you want to set a trajectory that also meets the 2030 stretch goals?
  • Interim report of options for consideration and selection of an agreed strategy.
  • Consideration of implementation phases to enable targeted reductions.
  • Offsetting requirements and costs.

On the podcast we discuss the outcomes and benefits of developing a HDP, as well as the next steps. We also discuss the benefits of modelling your strategy – looking at the thermodynamic and hydraulic system, creating models of it and how it should change over time. You can access the podcast here –

Planning for the future

You may only be looking into Heat Decarbonisation Plans due to Salix requiring one, however we believe it is in the interest of all trusts to create a plan for your estates as soon as possible to help set out your roadmap for this key area of your carbon footprint.

If you only look 5-years ahead then there is a real risk that short to medium-term measures will be taken that will subsequently need to be de-commissioned to achieve the 2040 goals resulting in a waste of money and increased disruption to the sites. Remember the old adage – If you fail to plan then you are planning to fail!

To discuss your Heat Decarbonisation Plan with one of our experts contacts us on 01253 785 294 or email