Plans to deliver affordable low carbon energy to town centre buildings in Solihull are set to progress to the next stage with vital grant funding announced today.
After developing a detailed Outline Business case to build a local energy network, Solihull Council learnt today that it has successfully secured £6,590,500 grant funding from the government’s Heat Networks Investment Project (HNIP) to support the next phase of this exciting scheme. This sits alongside substantial funding which has already been secured from the West Midlands Combined Authority.
Emissions from heat currently account for approximately one third of Solihull’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Working with partners, Solihull Council has been developing plans to build a district heat network which will utilise low carbon and renewable energy and distribute it from a single energy centre directly into town centre buildings.
In response to the ongoing climate emergency Solihull Council voted unanimously, last October, to minimise the environmental impacts of its own activity and contribute to the improvement of the wider environment through local action. This includes a commitment to ensure that the Council’s own operations and activities are carbon neutral by 2030 as well as to meet the wider regional target of net-zero emissions for the borough as a whole by 2041. Supporting and collaborating with the West Midlands Combined Authority, the Council is currently developing a Net Zero Action Plan to further define, prioritise and deliver actions which support carbon emission reductions across the borough.
The town centre was first identified as a potential heat network location in a 2016 Heat Mapping Report. 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 submitted an Outline Business case for the scheme earlier this year.
The latest funding, which will be released in phases, will allow the scheme to progress to the commercialisation and eventual construction phase. Those overseeing the project have now appointed technical specialists and are starting the procurement process for their delivery partner who will support the further design, construction, operation and maintenance of the network. The Council can also now look to proceed with launching a pre-planning consultation and gathering local views on the proposed Energy Centre design.
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.”
The first phase will connect nine existing buildings including four education campus sites with multiple plant room connections, and one commercial development on council-owned land. In line with the emerging Town Centre Masterplan, a further two phases of the Solihull Town Centre Network have been identified which could see the network extended significantly in subsequent phases. ‘Heat on’ for phase one customers is expected in late 2022.
To receive updates on this exciting project, sign up to the council’s Stay Connected bulletin here.