Leeds District Heating Network

An officer from Leeds City Council describes the new district heating network.

What work has been done so far?

The council has now completed phase 1 of the district heating network (DHN) which has been successfully providing heat to Leeds Playhouse and council houses for well over a year.

Over 1980 flats are now connected, including the recent change from gas to district heating for the existing Stoney Rock heat network. This was achieved even though the need to minimise Covid-19 risk for tenants and staff meant Vital Energi were unable to work on council house connections during spring and summer 2020.

Phase 2 of the network was under construction throughout much of 2020, and now provides a connection from phase 1 in Mabgate right through the city centre and into the ‘Civic Quarter’ to connect five key Leeds City Council buildings: Civic Hall, Town Hall, Leeds Museum, Art Gallery/Library and St George House.

Phase 2 has now completed construction and heat is available for customers.

Why did you do this work?

The ultimate ambition for the network once these branches are constructed is a wholly connected network of pipes with multiple low-carbon heat sources, providing a truly sustainable source of heat and hot water to the city’s residents and businesses.

How does this reduce carbon emissions?

The heat and hot water reuse heat which is already being produced at Leeds’s Recycling and Energy Recovery Facility (RERF) in Cross Green, which is operated by Veolia.

The first phase, which connected to the flats, was expected to save over 3, 800 tonnes of carbon per year. The connections to the municipal buildings in the city centre will save 550 tonnes of CO2 per year.

What other benefits are there for the people whose homes and businesses are heated in this way?

For the residents of the flats, the very elderly and expensive electric heating system was expensive and not very responsive. The new, modern system is cheaper to run and more comfortable.

For the businesses, the district heating network has been set up to always be competitive with other prices.

What challenges did you come across and how did you overcome them?

Construction commenced in September 2019. This required working closely with the Connecting Leeds Headrow reconfiguration. Although challenging to run two separate major infrastructure projects in the same area, an effective partnership with the Connecting Leeds project has helped to minimise overall disruption to residents and businesses.

COVID once again provided its own challenges, but the cancellation of many summer events – coupled with quieter roads – enabled Vital to make good progress with pipe installation.

Unlike in Scandinavia, district heating is not something businesses or developers are used to in the UK, so we have had to address perceptions.  We did this by engaging constructively with the landlords of new premises at an early stage to help them to see that if they decide at the planning stage to connect to the DHN they do not need to reserve space for a plant room, and will not need to put aside time to run one.

What work do you plan next?

The council now intends to remove gas boilers from the five key Leeds City Council buildings in early 2021, and replace these with DHN heat exchangers.

The team has also supported a number of other potential customers to apply for Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme (PSDS) funding, and it is anticipated that, if successful, these new connections will almost double current heat sales. This will also help other potential customers develop their confidence in the network, helping to grow the network further.

How is some of this work funded?

The building connections have coincided with the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme (PSDS) launched recently by BEIS. The council has bid for grant funding for the DH heat exchangers and plant room modifications, as well as essential work to secondary systems (controls, radiators etc) in four of the five buildings to ensure each one is suitably modernised and efficient. This application also included £570k to connect a new school, currently under construction close to St James’ hospital.

The council was recently successful in another application for grant funding from the Heat Networks Investment Project (HNIP) of £2.4m to facilitate a 3rd phase into the South Bank, which will primarily connect into the major Aire Park scheme on the former Tetley Brewery site.

What might help other places to gain funding?

This bid was helped by ongoing feasibility studies the council has commissioned, supported by the LEPs Energy Accelerator programme.  

It is important to have the evidence ready before sources of funding become available, so we have a second study now focussing on the west side of the South Bank.

What are you most proud of?

Throughout the construction and development of the city’s DHN, Leeds has become a national flagship for new heat networks. The profile of the city’s network has been steadily rising, with the team having a growing presence in industry and government working groups as well as providing ongoing support to other local authorities looking to develop their own networks.

More information is available.