Leeds City Council and Vital Energi are currently constructing a district heating network – the Leeds PIPES network. 1,983 council homes and numerous businesses around Leeds City Centre will be connected to the heat network, providing low carbon heat and hot water, reusing heat which is already being produced at Leeds’s Recycling and Energy Recovery Facility (RERF) in Cross Green, which is operated by Veolia. The Leeds PIPES district heating network provides affordable low-carbon heat and hot water to buildings across the inner city using heat generated from household waste at the Recycling and Energy Recovery Facility.
More than 19km of underground pipes have been installed so far—employing more than 430 people including 36 apprentices in skilled low carbon jobs.
Historic buildings including both Leeds Civic and Town Hall, a hospital, businesses and nearly 2000 council homes have already been connected to the network.
One big piece of advice is that early stakeholder engagement is something others can learn from our project, as we have found that very early engagement is essential to help develop relationships and manage risk and issues. For example, we had open dialogue with multiple customers for several years and this has now led to them signing up to the network. We have found that discussions with stakeholders and potential customers can take a lot longer than anticipated, and we are often at the mercy of their timescales and budgets. However, this is something that can be effectively managed with good communication.
One particular area of stakeholder engagement that is essential is to build and maintain a good relationship with various local authority departments, particularly Planning and Network Management. Network Management are responsible for all permits and licenses to work on or around the public highway – as well as to minimise traffic – and so their involvement is essential in planning a network’s route and its construction.
We learned that it is essential to identify risks as early as possible and make sure there are processes for managing them. Sometimes it is better to take a slightly more costly approach with an assured outcome than to spend time and resources looking into other options that turn out to be unviable eg route options and utility connections.
We have developed and built out a large network in very little time. It is partially because of other schemes in the centre of Leeds that we had to accelerate development to fit in with associated construction programmes. If others are considering a network, then they should look to integrate this with other schemes to maximise the benefits and minimise costs.
It is also helpful to have local policy in Planning to help network development. We have a local development order that enables us to construct the network with a simplified planning approach. It means we can essentially construct the network under permitted development and not full planning, with some exceptions.
We also have a local EN4 policy which is designed to lead developers towards district heating. This means that they are required to consider district heating as a viable means of heating and domestic hot water to meet renewable targets; the policy has so far been very useful.
Number of residents helped.