Author Archives: Ronan Doyle

Developing comprehensive guidance for local authorities…

SHIFFT is an INTERREG 2 Seas project promoting cross-border cooperation between four European countries: the Netherlands, France, Belgium and the UK. The main objective of SHIFFT is to stimulate the adoption of low-carbon heating technologies in existing buildings and you can find out more about SHIFFT from the project website. The project consists of a number of different work packages, but this blog just focusses on the first: Sustainable Heating Strategies and Guidance for the Heating Transition.

The transition to sustainable heating systems (e.g. district heating systems, heat pumps, solar thermal systems, in combination with thermal insulation) is an essential element in the response to climate change. But it requires more than technological innovation alone. It entails a system-wide transition that covers both technical and social components, and addresses the supply, distribution, and demand sides of local energy systems.

Given the complexity in decarbonising heat and recognising that the way in which heat is supplied and used, largely reflects local circumstances, local authorities, municipalities and cities have a central role to play in helping to drive and support a low carbon heating transition. To support local action, SHIFFT is providing help, resources and guidance to a number of cities to help them mobilise local action with their local communities.

Work Package 1 of SHIFFT is led by the City of Mechelen (BE) with support from the University of Exeter (UK), Delft University of Technology (NL) and CD2E (FR) and comprises two essential, complementary building blocks to support local government in decarbonising heating:

  • Developing comprehensive guidance for local authorities and community groups on how to facilitate and accelerate the transition to sustainable heating of homes and community buildings. The guidance will presents policy options, solutions and practical tools to tackle key barriers blocking this transition.
  • Working with four partners cities to help them develop sustainable heating strategies – these include the cities of Bruges, Fourmies, Mechelen, and Middelburg. This works will identify scope, opportunities, actors, technology, resources and barriers and lay out a roadmap for the move to sustainable heating at city and district level.

An early output from this work package is a draft report setting out a common approach for developing sustainable heating strategies for partner cities. This is designed to help cities avoid replication of work and overcome some of the complexities in shifting to low carbon heating within homes and community buildings. The common approach sets out some of key elements of a sustainable heating strategy and provides a roadmap for how to develop and implement one in any local area. It also provides a step-by-step process that considers barriers and opportunities across technologies, people and policy/regulation.

We will be using this common approach with the four partner cities to help them develop their own sustainable heat strategies. This will be an interactive process involving different city departments, community groups and stakeholders, to identify and analyse heating needs, heat supply opportunities, technologies options, and barriers for sustainable heating in their city. It should result in local heat zoning plans and possible transition scenarios with their respective operational aspects, resource requirements and time line. Draft strategies will be reviewed and supported by the SHIFFT partners and observers before the cities seek political approval for their implementation.

The SHIFFT team will then use the insights from the city pilots, expert stakeholders and the common approach report to develop detailed practical guidance on the transition to sustainable heating. This will consist of modules covering: co-creation approaches and mobilising households; financial tools and incentives; regulation; and technical solutions. The final guidance will be freely available on-line and will lead into a later work package to help other cities and communities speed up the shift to sustainable heating.

Richard Hoggett (Postdoctoral Research Fellow)


Introducing SHIFFT…


SHIFFT is an Interreg 2 Seas project, running from 2019-2022, promoting cross-border cooperation between 4 European countries: The Netherlands, France, Belgium and The United Kingdom. It has been approved under the priority ‘Low Carbon Technologies’.

Space and water heating represent a large fraction of overall energy consumption across the EU Member States, and around one third of carbon emissions. Dependence on fossil fuels has made the heat sector hard to decarbonise in at least three of the four Member States in the 2 Seas region. Further, between 65% and 80% of buildings across these four Member States that will exist in 2050 have already been built, often with fossil fuel heating systems and poor energy efficiency. There is an enormous potential to reduce CO2 emissions in the sector by shifting to low carbon heating alternatives, but there remain many barriers to doing so.

The main objective of the SHIFFT project is to stimulate the adoption of low-carbon heating technologies in existing buildings. It will take multiple routes to achieving this through its three technical work packages (WP).

Our first WP devises city strategies for four small to medium municipalities as well as producing general guidance for cities to make their own strategies for the move to low carbon heating. City strategies will be devised for the Belgian cities of Brugge and Mechelen, the Dutch city of Middelburg and the French city of Fourmies, each led by the cities as full partners in the project. These will inform a document offering guidance to other cities who want to devise their own strategy.

Our second WP focuses on developing strategies for the fullest possible inclusion of communities in developing low carbon heating strategies at the local level. This co-creation process will inform the other WPs so that the views of building users are fully incorporated into decision making. We see it as essential to include communities to the fullest possible extent in decisions about the buildings in which they live, work and play.

WP3 concerns delivery of exemplar community low carbon heating projects; one installation of low carbon heating technology will take place in each of the four INTERREG 2 Seas Member States, with each build led by one of our project partners: Places for People (UK), De Schakelaar (NL), Fourmies (FR) and Zorgbedrijf Rivierenland (BE). We will aim to capture learning from these developments and pass it on to the widest possible selection of stakeholders in the sector.

The work is supported by two universities, the University of Exeter (UK), acting as project coordinator and the Technical University of Delft (NL) and by CD2E, who will support the local authorities and other partners as regards technology, policy and co-creation of projects with communities.

The specific and measurable objectives of SHIFFT are to assist in the development of city low carbon heating strategies, both within the project and by demonstrating routes to strategy development for other municipalities, to develop exemplar low carbon retrofit heating projects and to work with others to pass on the lesson learned within the project to maximise the value of the lessons learned.

SHIFFT targets local and regional authorities as a primary target group with the purpose of influencing communities, homeowners, districts, cities, energy consultants, energy service companies and SMEs to consider a wider set of heating solutions than is currently the case.

Professor Peter Connor