David Linsley-Hood talks about renewable heat

Locogen's David Linsley-Hood tells us how he was inspired to get involved in renewable energy and ponders the future for renewable heat.

How did you get into renewables?

It was a bit by chance. I was training as a geotechnical engineer when I got into a discussion with a professor about the future of world energy. He highlighted that there was probably going to be a bit of development in the upcoming field of renewable energy and I might like to investigate it. The concept of renewable energy really struck a chord with me, so I started to research and do some reading, including the works of the ITDG (now Practical Action) and the book ‘Small is Beautiful’, both of which champion the idea of ‘Appropriate Technologies’ – selecting the complexity of a system to match the requirements and resources.

I found a project in Nepal that was installing rural PV installations and convinced them to give me a job, and ever since then I’ve been lucky enough to find people and projects to work with and learn from. This has led to me working all over the world delivering design, implementation and training on projects from small community energy schemes to large commercial projects.

Tell us a little about your work in renewable energy

My work has been across a number of different fields and technologies, but all working from the premise that if we work with a client to identify their actual energy needs and their drivers, we can develop the best technical solution to match. This has led me to work on designing and delivering projects ranging from Megawatt scale biomass CHP projects for the NHS through to community biomass district heating projects and portfolios of heat pump and solar thermal schemes for domestic properties. I’ve been involved with several community projects and have sat on the boards of both the Edinburgh Solar Co-op and the Small Wind Co-op to provide and promote community ownership of energy schemes.

I was a senior lecturer in renewable energy system design for a number of years, providing training and tutoring to MSc Engineering and Architecture students on the detail and practicality of delivering renewable energy schemes. In addition, I also trained both electricians and plumbers for the C&G and BPEC installer training programmes.

Finally, for several years I have worked as a contractor and project manager for the delivery of commercial scale renewable heat projects on both LTHW and steam installations, providing me with a clear grounding in the practicalities and commercial realities of delivering projects and supporting clients from concept through installation to operation and maintenance.

How do you see the development of the renewable heat market?

The UK renewable heat market is currently undertaking a big shift as the industry adapts to changes in Government policy, as well as learning from the lessons of the past few years. The developments over the upcoming years are going to focus on more district heating and community schemes, and on more heat-pump solutions as well as some biomass. In this, we need to work with clients to help them understand the opportunities and risks in these technologies and how they relate to their requirements.

What benefits can renewable heat bring to customers and to the country as a whole?

Renewable heat has the ability to significantly reduce the UK demand for carbon fuels. This has the combined benefits of reducing CO2 emissions, along with reducing the UK requirement for importing fuel. This in turn stimulates a demand and a market for local energy supply and production. Renewable heat sources also have the potential to reduce fuel bills and bring homes out of energy poverty.

What are the barriers to deployment and what should be done to overcome them?

The main barriers are around infrastructure cost, technical understanding and implementation. Overcoming the risks around technical and implementation aspects all come down to using the right team of manufacturers, contractors, technical experts and project managers. Locogen are privileged to have a technical resource team spanning the full scope of renewable technologies. As we are not tied to a single manufacturer or technology, we are able to draw on the best options available and deliver a tailored, cost effective solution to each client. We are also very experienced in understanding the practicalities of delivering complex projects across challenging circumstances and locations, and this depth of experience helps us to manage and de-risk the costs associated with delivering these projects. It’s also vital to maintain a detailed knowledge of the current incentive and policy structures across the UK to ensure we can help our clients access all the available benefits, and structure their projects to ensure these deadlines are not missed.

Why you joined forces with Locogen and your aspirations for the future.

I have joined Locogen as it was a rare opportunity to work with a group of like-minded, committed and technically adept individuals, all of whom are bringing their skills and experience together to deliver interesting renewable energy projects with an emphasis on quality and customer satisfaction. Going forward I’m excited about the options for growing and developing the business, as well as seeing the team expand and thrive.