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Leeds reveals latest ambitions for flagship district heating

by Mark Cantrell
Plans for the proposed extension of Leeds PIPES district heating network published in August 2023

A district heating system in Leeds, West Yorkshire, continues to expand, with more buildings set to connect, and plans published to extend the network even further through the city.

The city council has published plans for two major extensions to the £62m Leeds PIPES district heating network, subject to funding. These would enable “dozens more” more buildings to hook up to the low-carbon system.

Senior councillors have approved an application for up to £20m of grant funding that, if successful, would enable the two new extensions to go ahead.

The first extension would see another 600m (0.4 miles) of pipes laid from Little Queen Street to Wellington Street.

A second new extension, located in the South Bank of the city centre, would see approximately 7km (4.3 miles) of low carbon heat network installed from Clarence Road to Sweet Street, and eventually connecting to the existing Leeds PIPES infrastructure.

Subject to funding and final approval, the council says construction of the extensions could begin as soon as 2024 with works completing in 2026.

Growth potential

Work to develop the detailed project plans and business cases required to secure funding for, and construct, the new extensions is currently underway, after the council successfully secured £154,000 of grant funding from the government’s Heat Network Development Unit earlier this year.

Meanwhile, four more buildings are set to connect in the next 12 months, including the first private sector residential development. They are:

  • Spinner’s Yard around Mabgate, developed by Rise Homes
  • Leonardo and Thoresby buildings on Gt George Street, developed by McLaren on behalf of Arrow Leonardo
  • The redevelopment of Leeds Technology Campus on Cookridge Street, developed by Metropolitan & District Securities
  • Leeds Conservatoire on Quarry Hill

Earlier this year, Leeds Combined Court Centre and Leeds Magistrates’ Court became the latest buildings to take heat from the scheme.

Councillor Mohammed Rafique, the council’s executive member for climate, energy, environment and green space, said he was “delighted” by the network’s continuing growth.

“Year after year, the Leeds PIPES district heating network continues to gain momentum,” he said. “I am delighted that four more buildings – including the first private residential developers – have now signed up for the benefits of affordable, reliable, and low carbon heating.

“By planning to bring the network to completely different parts of the city, we’ll soon be able to give many more businesses and residents a new opportunity to move away from costly fossil-fuels and towards a greener future with Leeds PIPES heating.”

The scheme has been supported by £5.4m of government funding to date. It uses heat and energy recovered from the incineration of non-recyclable waste at the Recycling & Energy Recovery Facility (RERF) which is used to provide heat and hot water to the Leeds PIPES network.

Last year, the network of insulated underground pipes supplied 22,029 megawatt-hours of heating in total and helped reduce the city’s carbon footprint by 3,975 tonnes.

The council estimates that the network is helping existing customers to collectively save nearly half a million pounds (£490,000) in reduced energy costs this year alone.

Visiting dignitary

Earlier this month, Leeds City Council and its principal contractor Vital Energi hosted energy efficiency and green finance minister, Lord Callanan for a tour of the facility.

The minister visited several landmarks and connections on the network, including RERF, Cross Green Energy Centre and St James’s Hospital – where he met members of the NHS Estates & Facilities team.

Lord Callanan also visited Shakespeare Towers and met council tenants connected to the heat network.

The minister sad it was “fantastic” to hear how the Leeds PIPES network is providing low-cost heating to local communities, and is to be further extended.

“What I witnessed in Leeds is part of the future of low-carbon heating in this country, reducing emissions while supporting the nation’s push for greater energy security and independence,” he added.

“That is why we are investing millions of pounds in building new, greener heat networks and upgrading old inefficient systems.”

Mike Cooke, Vital Energi’s managing director (North and Scotland) said: “It was a great to show Lord Callanan around the network, but the buildings and energy centres are only part of the story.

“By meeting some of the residents and non-domestic connections, the positive impact of this project were evident. We believe it is a scheme which sets the standards for what major cities can achieve.”

Main image: Plans for the heating network’s extension published in August 2023. Courtesy of Leeds City Council

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