We are delighted to announce that Nicky Butterworth has won the Industry Champion category at this year’s Decentralised Energy Awards organised by the Association for Decentralised Energy.

Nicky Butterworth has been a tireless champion for heat networks in the public, private and third sectors. In a variety of roles at ADE and BEIS, Nicky played a pivotal role in the creation of Heat Trust, the Heat Network Delivery Unit and the Heat Network Investment Project. Nicky also set up the Heat Exchanger Mentoring Pilot, an initiative that is paving the way for the sector’s future champions.

Now at Guru Systems, Nicky is driving innovation-led change in the sector, specifically focusing on the digitalisation and then optimisation of networks – one of the next major challenges for the industry.

Nicky’s journey in heat networks

Nicky Butterworth moved into the heat networks sector in 2010. Over ten years, Nicky has played a pivotal role in shaping the industry. Nicky has contributed to many of the positive changes happening in the industry today, such as upcoming regulation, Government investment, increased consumer protection, and the use of data for heat network optimisation.

Nicky joined the CHPA (now ADE) in 2010. In the following three years, Nicky developed the Independent Heat Customer Protection Scheme, which later became Heat Trust. Working with a diverse and challenging set of stakeholders, Nicky designed scheme rules that were endorsed by both the sector and Government. Heat Trust went on to secure Government funding and was operationalised in 2015, and now supports 50,000 customers. She was active in the initiation of the ADE/CIBSE Code of Practice (much later securing funding for v2 whilst at BEIS) which alongside the work of Heat Trust, is a key component of Government’s proposed market framework.

In 2013, Nicky joined DECC’s newly established Heat Networks Delivery Unit. HNDU has supported 162 local authorities with £22m grant funding to explore heat network opportunities. Nicky led the design of the scheme, administered funding rounds and standardised terminology for heat network development stages.

Nicky then moved to the Heat Networks Policy Team as it began to focus on finance. Nicky initiated a programme of engagement with investors after DECC’s ‘Future of Heating’ report identified capital funding as a barrier to deployment. Nicky secured buy-in and approval to publish the first heat networks project pipeline and investor guide for which she was lead author and designed and chaired investor conferences.

Nicky wrote the Spending Review bid that secured £320 million from Treasury for the Heat Network Investment Project, capital funding for heat network construction. Nicky navigated the competing requirements placed on Government Major Projects, designed the application criteria, grant and loan offering, wrote the pilot consultation and guidance and the pilot launched within a year.

Nicky was seconded to the Competition and Markets Authority from BEIS, providing sector expertise to the team of economists and lawyers, shaping the findings of the Heat Networks Market Study and drafting planning and technical standards annexes. The study recommended that a form of regulation was needed, a crucial piece of evidence in the Government’s decision to propose future regulation.

Throughout her time at BEIS, Nicky championed the effective use of data and the optimisation of heat networks. Nicky decided to leave BEIS in 2019 to join Guru Systems as Head of Operations. Guru develops and delivers market-leading hardware and data analytics across heat networks, improving performance for developers, heat suppliers and customers. Nicky has played a pivotal role in Guru’s rapid growth and was also the first woman to join the management team.

Nicky was one of the early members of the District Heating Divas, a monthly gathering of women in the sector. Through the Divas, Nicky proposed and launched the Heat Exchanger mentoring pilot this year which received 63 applicants in two weeks and has matched 27 pairs.