Plans for council’s district heating scheme warm up

An ambitious project to use Leeds’ rubbish to help heat homes and businesses using the new incinerator being developed in the city could be about to take a step forward.

The Recycling and Energy Recovery Facility (RERF) currently being constructed at Cross Green is designed to generate enough electricity to power over 22,000 homes. Now broad plans are being developed to also harness the heat produced while processing waste and pipe it to homes, businesses and other developments.

The RERF will begin accepting council waste in early 2016 and operators Veolia have now asked Leeds City Council if they can extend the life of their lease of the site to run the facility for a further 15 years beyond the expiry of the current 25 year PFI contract.

Securing heat generation for the extended 40 year period would be a major catalyst in achieving the council’s ambitions to make the most of opportunities to heat entire districts with environmentally-friendly schemes.

The first part of the three-phase project will look at supplying heat from the RERF to a number of council-owned tower blocks and operational buildings, as well as public and private sector commercial buildings and to significant development sites in the city centre.

More than 2,000 flats in parts of the city where fuel poverty is most prevalent could have their heat supplied direct during the first phase of the scheme. This phase would build the foundations for a wider district heating network that can be developed in the future and also create confidence in the principle of heat networks and possible further schemes.

Councillors will be asked to examine the proposals at their executive board meeting on September 17 and officers recommend they agree to the lease extension. They will hear how extending the Veolia lease by 15 years would also result in major savings of around £2million a year in the council’s waste treatment PFI contract. All current legislative and environmental controls would remain and be enforced.

Further major savings of around £1.7m a year could be realised if councillors also agree to a proposal to make a major capital contribution to the plant’s development. This is because much more favourable rates are available for public sector borrowing than those that would be obtainable for Veolia.

Councillor Mark Dobson, Leeds City Council’s executive member for cleaner, stronger and safer communities, said:“This is a very exciting development since it enables us to advance work on our ambitious district heating plans. Extending the lease and making a capital contribution also allows us to save significant amounts of council taxpayers’ cash- around £3.7m a year- over the length of the contract.

“Our district heating network could make a real difference in our efforts to tackle fuel poverty by reducing energy bills for vulnerable residents by around 10% and will help towards our target of reducing CO2 emissions by 40% between 2005- 2020. It would also create construction and maintenance jobs and could stimulate further investment in the city.”

Paul Fowler, general manager of Veolia, said:“The Leeds Waste Management PFI will enable the city council to make significant savings over the life of the contract and will make a valuable contribution to the level of recycling across the city.

“These new proposals for a district heat network and an adaption to the existing PFI contract will enable us to deliver even greater value for money to the city council and provide the foundations for developing much needed energy infrastructure in the Leeds area.”

Other potential benefits to the council of extending the Veolia lease include broadening its options over disposal of the city’s black bin waste following the original contract expiry date. A 40-year agreement would also mean that it would become Veolia’s responsibility and not the council’s to decommission the facility, along with the associated costs, at the appropriate time.

For media enquiries please contact:

Donna Cox, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 224 3335

Email: donna.cox@leeds.gov.uk