New heat network planned for Viridor’s Exeter ERF

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Plans for a new energy efficient district heating network, provided with heat from Viridor's Exeter Energy Recovery Facility (ERF), have been announced by three Devon councils.

The initiative aims to cut emissions from new housing developments and is being backed by Teignbridge District Council, Exeter City Council and Devon County Council with funding of up to £7.3m contributing to the £23m capital investment project. An advance payment of £50,000 has been offered by the councils for preliminary infrastructure works to take place, Teignbridge District Council confirmed.

Analysis has suggested that the new heat network will reduce carbon emissions from new homes planned by up to 70 per cent compared with natural gas fired boiler alternatives, delivering carbon savings of at least 2,500 tonnes per annum via a long-term low-carbon heat supply.

Viridor’s Exeter ERF is located in Marsh Barton and generates heat and power from waste which cannot be recycled. The export of heat from the ERF is said to be around five times more energy efficient than the generation of electricity at the plant. With the government’s plans to stop the use of fossil fuel heating systems in new homes as soon as possible, the solution will provide home owners with an environmentally friendly and cost effective alternative.

The new heat network will support the current Local Plan’s mixed-use development at South West Exeter which, with Teignbridge Council, Exeter City Council’s planned housing developments, plans for up to 2,500 new homes to be built in the area plus a new school campus and community facilities.

Officers from Exeter City, Devon County Council and Teignbridge Council have been working with advisers from the University of Exeter and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to bring the project forward. Last mile multi-utility network and operator Leep Utilities will operate the network as the Energy Services Company (ESCo).

Leep Utilities is working with Viridor to arrange access to the plant’s heat and is currently in the process of negotiating terms with the development area’s house builders and developers in order to provide the heat to future occupants.

Viridor COO Richard Pennells commented: “Exeter ERF already attaches a purpose to non-recyclable waste, diverting 60,000 tonnes from landfill every year and generating enough energy to power the equivalent of more than 6,600 homes. The ERF is, however, designed to be a combined heat and power plant and we are pleased to be working with the councils and its partners to fully realise the ERF’s potential and contribute to this important initiative.”

The need for substantial upfront capital investment and uncertain rates of return means that the scheme today is not commercially viable, leading council members to support the venture with a multi-million-pound package of grant and loan funding. Funding will come from developer contributions including the Community Infrastructure Levy, which is a charge on development to fund new infrastructure.  

Teignbridge Council leader Alan Connett added that until contracts are signed, the scheme can’t be guaranteed to go ahead but that everyone is ‘committed to overcoming the outstanding issues and pushing forward’ with the approach. Rachel Sutton, Exeter City Council’s deputy leader and lead councillor for Net Zero Exeter 2030 welcomed the initiative, adding that using heat from the ERF is ‘both sensible and efficient.’

John Saunders, BEIS, is speaking on heat policy at Energy from Waste Virtual, and heat network projects will be fully featured in the programme – LondonEnergy and Energetik will discuss the plan based on the North London Heat and Power project, to heat a network of 30,000+ homes in north London. 

Also featured, the Leeds Pipes network, based on the Veolia Recycling and Energy Recovery facility, which continues to develop. 

Speakers will discuss how contracts are developed, how financing and risk are managed and how the projects are structured to be viable currently and in the long term. 

These are invaluable opportunities to discuss the challenging details with key stakeholders who are already going down the path of heat network development, and finding solutions to achieve successful delivery. Book your place here!

www.efwconference.com

Melissa Bradshaw

Reporter, Mark Allen Group

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