In October 2019, Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council recognised a climate emergency and voted unanimously to ensure that the Council’s own activities are carbon-neutral by 2030. In addition, the Council is working closely with the West Midlands Combined Authority towards meeting the region’s wider target of ‘net-zero emissions’ by 2041. More than a year earlier they had embarked on a mission to deliver affordable, low carbon heat to homes and businesses in the town centre. We are pleased to announce today, that the Council has successfully secured £6,591,000 of Heat Networks Investment Project (HNIP) grant funding to support the commercialisation and construction phases of the Solihull Town Centre Low Carbon Energy Network.
Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng said:
“Innovative projects like this one in Solihull are helping the UK lead the way in driving down carbon emissions, and it’s great to see governments of all levels and local communities working together.
“The Government’s Heat Network Investment Project is allowing us to drive forward new low-carbon technologies as we build back greener and work towards net zero emissions by 2050.”
Solihull Town Centre was first identified as a potential heat network location in a 2016 Heat Mapping Report. This was largely due to the density of heat demand loads located near to council offices and the significant scale of new commercial and residential units to be brought forward in the town centre masterplan. With support from the Heat Networks Delivery Unit within the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy, West Midlands Combined Authority and a talented team of external consultants, the Council developed a techno-economic feasibility study and progressed to Outline Business case earlier this year.
Not without its challenges, an open loop Ground Source Heat Pump (GSHP) was approved as the preferred option in January 2019. It was found however that the pumping energy requirements for the aquifer were greater than those assumed at feasibility stage and the recharge rate of the boreholes was so severely limiting as to render the scheme nonviable.
Since heat networks remain largely technology agnostic, the council were able to assess alternative technology solutions and the decision was made to utilise a combination of a 1.7MWth Air Source Heat Pump (ASHP), a 1,560 kWe gas-fired Combined Heat and Power (CHP) engine and auxiliary gas boilers. The first phase will connect 9 existing buildings including 4 education campus sites with multiple plant room connections, and one commercial development on council-owned land. Owing to the Town Centre Masterplan, a further two phases of the Solihull Town Centre Network have been recognised which could extend the network further within the Town Centre and further north.
The creation of a low carbon borough has been at the heart of the Council’s strategy for many years. A key objective outlined in their most recent Council Plan (2020-2025) is the development of a Low Carbon Energy Framework and Delivery Plan for the borough and Council’s own carbon emissions. Currently, emissions from heat account for approximately one-third of Solihull’s total greenhouse gas emissions, approximately 400,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) emissions. As with other councils across the UK, the majority of emissions come from burning fossil fuels. With this in mind, the town centre network hopes to achieve carbon savings of 280,247 tCO2e once fully built out (phases 1,2 and 3 over 40 years). Heat on for the first phase of the scheme is expected in late 2022.
Cllr Andy Mackiewicz, Portfolio Holder for Climate Change, Planning & Housing, Solihull Council said:
“As a Council we have committed ourselves to taking the necessary local action to tackle the climate change emergency. Through our ambitious Net Zero Action Plan we are developing a strategic approach to the challenge of decarbonising the borough over the next twenty years.
“The funding announced today is fantastic news for Solihull as innovative schemes like this will have a significant role to play in helping us to achieve our goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2041.
“We know that decarbonising heating for schools, homes, offices and other business uses can be prohibitively expensive for building operators on an individual level. However, a central town centre energy network provides a unique opportunity for existing buildings and new developments to benefit from low carbon heat generation. This scheme will help us to reduce the borough’s greenhouse gas emissions while providing customers with a highly efficient and affordable heat supply.
“With this vital funding now in place we can move to the next phase of this exciting project and the real work can begin. While we still have a long way to go this feels like a significant step forward in our journey towards net zero emissions.”
Supporting and collaborating with the West Midlands Combined Authority, the Council is also developing a Net Zero Action Plan as part of their wider Low Carbon Energy Framework to further define, prioritise and deliver actions which support carbon reductions across the borough.
Ken Hunnisett, Project Director at Triple Point Heat Networks Investment Management said:
“With almost 300 Councils across the country having declared climate emergencies to date, there has never been more work undertaken at a local level to arrest the problem of our continuing carbon emissions. We are proud to deliver the Heat Networks Investment Project (HNIP) and provide the much-needed support to these committed Councils.
“The journey to net zero may include some bumps in the road, but with determination, clear goals, and appropriate funding, these can be overcome. The Solihull Town Centre Energy Network is a great example of a project that has a committed, goal-orientated team that has already proven able to make tremendous progress in spite of some unexpected challenges. We wish them every success as they continue on their journey.”
About the scheme:
Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council, Solihull Town Centre Low Carbon Energy Network: £6,591,000 commercialisation and construction grant
The network will supply public and commercial buildings in Solihull Town Centre using a combination of a 1.7MWth air source heat pump, 1,560 kWe gas-fired Combined Heat and Power engine (prioritised for network heat supply) and auxiliary gas boilers. Electricity generated by the CHP will supply the Energy Centre and heat pump operations, 4 public and private sector customers via private wire supply and or grid export depending on electricity demand and grid electricity prices. Initially, the scheme will supply heat to a Council building and four education sites to the south, and then cross under the railway line to supply further public sector and commercial buildings to the east. The network accommodates expansion to new developments within the town centre masterplan. No domestic connections are envisaged in phase 1, although new developments in the town centre are likely to include residential apartments. Solihull Council has received support from the Heat Networks Delivery Unit (HNDU) prior to applying for HNIP funding. Heat on is expected in late 2022.
Notes to editors:
For more information about Triple Point Heat Networks Investment Management and to find out how to apply for HNIP support visit: www.tp-heatnetworks.org.
A high-level summary of HNIP https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/heat-networks-investment-project-hnip-scheme-overview
Heat Networks Pipeline: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/hndu-pipeline
For further information about the scheme and to join the HNIP mailing list to receive updates, please contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For all media enquiries, please contact email@example.com.