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Sewer power to warm Bolton homes

by Mark Cantrell
Waste heat extracted from sewers could be used to heat homes and businesses in Bolton, Greater Manchester, after the government backed a project to deliver the seemingly unusual concept.

Waste heat extracted from sewers could be used to heat homes and businesses in Bolton, Greater Manchester, after the government backed a project to deliver the seemingly unusual concept.

The project, which could provide low-cost heating to nearly 2,000 homes and businesses in the town, received £11m of funding from the government; part of an £80.6m pot of funding that is going towards supporting green heat innovations.

Energy will be extracted from both sewage and waste hot water from washing machines, bathrooms and kitchens to fuel a new heat pump, as part of Bolton’s first district heating network. The idea is to help local people lower their energy bills.

The move will provide a recycled heating source for the local community – including the University of Bolton and the council. It is one of four innovative green heating projects across the country to receive grants from the government’s Green Heat Network Fund.

Lord Callanan, minister for energy efficiency and green finance, said: “These innovative projects will help drive down energy costs while also demonstrating why the UK has led the way in cutting carbon emissions.

“They show how energy sources can be found in the most unexpected places – as more homes and businesses will benefit from cleaner heating and lower energy bills.

“Our upgrades will also make sure our existing heat networks are upgraded – so customers can get the reliable heating supply they deserve.”

Other projects to receive a share of the £80.6m from the Green Heat Network Fund are:

  • The Exeter Energy Network: Receives £42.5m to build a heat network using air source heat pumps, and the UK’s largest high-temperature water source heat pump. Buildings connected to the network will see an initial reduction of 65-75% in carbon emissions compared to gas heating
  • The Hull East District Heat Network: Awarded £22m to build a heat network using excess heat generated by a nearby chemicals park. The project will provide low carbon heating to 14 public sector council buildings and industrial businesses
  • The Greenwich Peninsula ESCO District Heating Network in London will receive £4.6m to connect more than 9,000 existing and new homes, as well as over 94,000 square metres of commercial space to low-carbon heating. This cleaner energy will be powered by an air source heat pump fixed on the roof of the Greenwich Peninsula Energy Centre

Network upgrades

The government has also provided £8m investment from its Heat Network Efficiency Scheme to support upgrades to 34 heat network projects across England and Wales. The scheme will enable network operators to replace inefficient or old equipment to offer a more reliable service and improved heating.

Projects to receive funding to improve heat networks include:

  • Newport City Homes Housing Association Limited, which has been awarded £3.7m to upgrade the Duffryn District Heating System, improving the performance of the network for more than 970 homes, a local school, and businesses. Funding will go towards replacing over 3km of pipework across the network, whilst also upgrading control systems and insulation
  • Bristol Heat Networks Limited, which will receive £746,582 for the Redcliffe Heat Network, with 740 residents benefiting from improvements. Funding will help replace the pipework across the network
  • The University of Plymouth, which has been awarded £243,280 to upgrade to a sustainable heating system in the Portland Square area of its campus. The funding will improve the efficiency of the network allowing fossil fuel-powered appliances to be replaced with heat pumps and electric boilers.

Stephen Knight, managing director at the Heat Trust, the national consumer protection scheme for heat network customers, said: “At Heat Trust we sadly hear of far too many examples of inefficient and poorly performing heat networks. These can result in much higher heating costs for residents, overheating corridors and frequent breakdowns.

“The steep rises in gas prices over the last few years has meant that inefficient heat networks can be very expensive for residents.

“The government’s Heat Network Efficiency Scheme (HNES) is therefore an important step in the right direction, and we welcome [the] announcement of funding. I would urge all those responsible for running existing heat networks to consider bidding for this funding in future rounds.”

Sarah Honan, head of policy at the Association for Decentralised Energy, added: “[This] announcement takes us an important step closer to heat networks’ ultimate role in decarbonising the bulk of heat across the UK’s cities, towns and buildings. As we embark on the journey towards regulation, heat network zoning and the expansion of existing schemes, the ADE is very glad to see government supporting sector growth and high industry standards.

“Heat networks are a key solution in the mix of technologies that will make up the energy system of the future – not only will they be essential in decarbonising our homes and offices, factories and shops, but without them, the UK will not be able to build the truly resilient and flexible grid needed for the future.”

Image credit: Bernhard Kuehholzer/Pixabay


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