Report shows London’s lost rivers could provide low carbon heat across the city.

A new report launched today has outlined the potential for London’s lost rivers to provide renewably sourced heat to Londoners through heat pump technology.

Using data from Thames Water the report, by 10:10 Climate Action and energy consultants Scene, researched the heat potential of London hidden rivers. These include the Fleet, Tyburn and Effra, whose potential was assessed against a number of indicative case studies across residential, educational, office and heritage buildings.

The most eye-catching opportunity the report identifies is with Buckingham Palace, which lies above the ancient course of the River Tyburn. The team estimate that up to 100% of the palace’s heat demand could be met through heat recovered from the subterranean waterway beneath Green Park. The Royal Household has previously indicated that they are already considering heat pumps as part of the Palace’s planned refurbishment, so 10:10 are hoping to encourage contractors to explore the Tyburn as a future source of heat for the Queen’s London residence.

The report also found that, following some reconfiguration of the existing heating systems, a heat pump in the River Fleet could provide a third of the energy currently distributed through the Somers Town Heat Network in Camden. Further upstream, researchers found that the Fleet could provide all the heating needs of the Acland Burghley school in the north of the borough. Looking south of the Thames, the report suggests that Brockwell Lido, whose winter temperature can fall to as low as 2C, could be heated by the nearby River Effra to a temperature of 25C year round.

With the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, aiming for London to become a zero-carbon city by 2050, finding ways to decarbonise the city’s heat demand will become increasingly important. Nationally, progress has been slow, however, with the UK on course to miss its EU targets for 2020. The authors hope it can begin a conversation about how London can utilise the vast heat potential laying beneath our streets.

Leo Murray, director of campaigns at 10:10 Climate Action, said

“Most Londoners have no idea that under our feet there is a huge untapped resource of heat energy just waiting to be harnessed. The Mayor has set ambitious targets for phasing out gas burning in London over the coming years, and we are going to need every bit of low carbon heat we can get our hands on to meet these goals. This means our utilities and authorities need to ramp up their appetite for adventure when it comes to seeking out opportunities like the ones identified in this report.”

Louise Waters, Senior Consultant at Scene said:

“London’s lost rivers have in truth been integrated into the city’s drainage network for a hundred and fifty years, and whilst underground rivers like the ones we investigated in this report may be unusual, there are large capacity sewers in nearly every major city around the world. Other countries, including Scotland, are already successfully tapping into these heat resources, so we hope that London will be brave enough to follow suit in the near future.”



For further information and requests for interviews:  Daniel Jones, press and profile officer, [email protected]  0207 388 6688.

Notes to editors: 

  • 10:10 Climate Action is a UK based charity that brings people together to take positive, practical action on climate change. We engage citizens and communities in finding solutions that benefit the climate as well as improving people’s lives today.

  • Scene Connect ("Scene") are a social enterprise that works with communities to build resilience through local ownership of renewable energy systems. They work across UK and build products for the global 'energy access' market.