An energy company plans to spend over £40m to create the UK’s largest low-to-zero carbon district heating network beneath the streets of Bradford.
And it is hoped the ambitious scheme will help Bradford become one of the leading cities for clean growth.
The plans will see a new energy centre built in the city centre, using air source heat pumps to provide green heating measures to buildings that sign up as customers.
And work to lay the pipe will begin later this month with a view to having the network up and running by 2025.
The network could heat civic buildings in the city centre, including City Hall, the Law Courts and the Alhambra Theatre.
New developments such as Bradford Live and One City Park could also be linked up.
And any building near the underground pipes will be able to become part of the heat network.
One possible site of the proposed energy plans would be the former Beehive Mills site off Thornton Road.
The plant would house huge air source heat pumps that extract heat from the air, which is then used to heat water which will be pumped through five kilometres of pipes under the city.
A planning application for that plant has just been submitted to Bradford Council.
The group set up to deliver the scheme – Bradford Energy Limited, spoke to the Local Democracy Reporting Service about its plans.
It said the work will be timed to coincide with roadworks around Transforming Cities Fund schemes, including the pedestrianisation of Hall Ings, which are due to begin in the coming months.
BEN is a subsidiary of 1Energy – a company that has created 45 heat networks across the country over the past 15 years.
Andrew Wettern, CEO of BEL, said the network would help slash carbon emissions generated by city centre buildings – most of which use gas heating.
Although the heating provided by the network would initially cost more than gas heating, he said it would be a much more stable energy source – not subject to the fluctuations seen in the gas market recently.
It would also help organisations and businesses with their aims to achieve “net zero.”
Mr Wettern said: “It will help make Bradford a clean growth city. There aren’t many low carbon heat networks – most use gas.
“It will be the largest heat network in the UK by the time it is built. This is the first city centre network delivered by the private sector.”
He pointed out that with it being a privately delivered scheme, any risks would not fall on the taxpayer.
Once up and running, carbon dioxide equivalent emissions will be reduced by approximately 8,000 tonnes per year – roughly equal to 36 million miles of the average UK internal combustion engine car.
Mr Wettern said: “It will have a big impact on air quality. It is very supportive of the Clean Air Zone. That is removing pollution from vehicles, and this will remove carbon from buildings.”
The network will be built in two phases – the first initially offering connections to around 30 major buildings focusing on an east-west alignment running roughly between the University of Bradford in the west to the Crown Court in the east. A second, planned phase will see the pipe network expanded to cover areas to the north and south of phase one, potentially connecting as far north as Foster Square retail park and south as far as Park Road.
Mr Wettern added: “Our plans for the Bradford Energy Network will offer businesses, organisations and new developments the cheapest method available to decarbonise their heating systems.
“Our system will offer secure, locally sourced and reliably priced heating that allows customers to plan ahead to comply with the UK legal requirement for the country to be carbon neutral by 2050, and to meet the Council’s aspiration for the district to reach this milestone by 2038.
“With the decarbonisation of heating being one of the most difficult areas to address, many businesses and organisations are wondering how they can cost-effectively, quickly and simply achieve decarbonisation.
“We believe the Bradford Energy Network can help to speed up decarbonisation, can reduce the cost of the transition to low carbon for heat users, and deliver a range of benefits to the wider city. The BEN will offer reduced costs for new developments meeting ever more stringent carbon-based regulation, which will help to attract new carbon-free developments and new businesses to the city centre to take advantage of the certainty that we will offer.”
A heat network that would have been developed by Bradford Council was proposed for the city centre several years ago – but never progressed.
On the news of the new plans, Bradford Council spokesman said: “As a privately funded project, this scheme is a sign of the growing confidence in Bradford’s future. By enhancing our ability to grow the economy sustainably, Bradford will have an advantage over many other places and so we warmly welcome the investment and the opportunities it will bring.”