Infrastructure such as this, when planned and delivered in an integrated way, can offer considerable carbon and cost savings and community benefits, according to the report.

The report recommended that local authorities should develop ‘Sustainability Option Plans’, to identify opportunities to deliver joined-up sustainable community infrastructure and work in partnership with the private sector to supply this.

In addition, public sector buildings should be required, where available and viable, to connect to existing or planned community heat networks, to provide an ‘anchor load’ of demand, and large businesses should be encouraged to do the same.

The ‘allowable solutions’ mechanism should be used as a way of providing additional ring fenced capital to support the delivery of heat infrastructure. Government has said that developers will be able to invest in so-called allowable solutions in order to meet the required standard when constructing new zero carbon buildings, the report recommended.

Paul King, CEO of UK-GBC, said: ”Delivering sustainable community infrastructure, particularly district heating, is often still seen as expensive and high risk, which is why we need the public sector to play a key role in providing the anchor loads necessary to instil confidence and make schemes viable.

”It also makes a huge amount of sense to enable local energy infrastructure to be recognised as part of the zero carbon allowable solutions for new homes and buildings. This would offer the industry a cost-effective means of meeting the needs of new development in ways that will benefit existing communities too.”

David Adams, director of the Zero Carbon Hub, said: ”This report reinforces the key role that government can play, both providing demand as a client and enabling provision of heat infrastructure through allowable solutions.

”The recommendations represent a timely contribution to the decentralised energy debate and will help as we develop our understanding of the most cost-effective and carbon-effective way to build zero carbon homes.”