More people will have their homes and businesses heated by renewable, sustainable or recoverable energy sources thanks to extra £3 million of funding awarded to 55 local authorities across England and Wales on 10 March.

The new funding will support 74 low-carbon heat projects designed to provide more efficient heat to buildings and potentially lower heating bills in local areas while helping to cut carbon emissions, tackle fuel poverty and boost local jobs.

Heat networks are designed to provide heat to clusters of buildings through a system of insulated pipes carrying hot water - eliminating the need for individual homes and businesses to generate their own heat. Heat is distributed from a central location from sources such as rivers or mine water, biomass, energy from waste or recovered heat.

Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change Ed Davey, said: “Using wasted heat to warm our buildings is a cost effective way to cut carbon and slash energy bills.

“This money will help transform the way communities heat their buildings, schools and homes – as well as show how people and councils can work together to boost jobs and investment in their local area.”

The 55 winning local authorities are the fourth group of successful bidders to be announced as part of the government’s drive to scale-up the reach of low-carbon heat through local networks. If half of the projects are built, this would represent a capital investment of £800 million.

Announcing the winners at the National Heat Conference in Birmingham, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change, Baroness Verma said: “Low-carbon heat generation is on the rise in the UK and local authorities have an important role to play in maintaining this growth and driving forward innovation and progress in the heat industry.

“By working together, communities have the power to deliver clean energy to local areas, reduce bills and create more green jobs.”

The successful local authorities will be offered grants ranging from around £16,000 to £263,000 to help set up their projects. The government’s innovative Heat Networks Delivery Unit has been providing grant funding and expert guidance to local authorities since 2013.

Estimates show that around 15% of UK heat demand could be cost effectively met by heat networks by 2030 and over 40% by 2050.

The 74 new heat networks will bring the total number of heat network projects benefitting from government grants to 180.