Houses and businesses connect to low-carbon heating network in Leeds

Households and businesses in Leeds are set to benefit from reduced energy bills and carbon emissions after being connected to a £36m district heating network that connects to the city's Recycling and Energy Recovery Facility (RERF).

The Leeds RERF was opened in 2016 to burn up to 150,000 tonnes of landfill waste annually

The Leeds RERF was opened in 2016 to burn up to 150,000 tonnes of landfill waste annually

Almost 800 homes are now connected to the Leeds PIPES district heating network, a joint project between the city council and Vital Energi that reuses heat produced at the RERF in Cross Green that is operated by waste management firm Veolia.

Around 2,000 homes and numerous business in the city will be connected to the network, which successfully linked up houses this week as part of phase one of the project. Once the remaining houses are linked up to the system later this year, the network will save 1,983 properties between 10 to 25% on their energy bills while reducing the city’s annual emissions by 11,000 tonnes.

Councillor Lisa Mulherin, Leeds City Council’s executive member for climate change, transport and sustainable development, said: "After declaring a climate emergency, the district heating network will make a positive contribution to enable local homes and businesses to connect to energy efficiency heating.

"The district heating network is a fantastic example of how becoming more sustainable can help the council and residents save money on their energy bills whilst also working towards our target of becoming a carbon-neutral city.”

Leeds City Council declared a climate emergency in March 2019, outlining an ambition to “work towards” a net-zero carbon city by 2030 as a result. A report was developed and taken to the Council’s Executive Board in April which spurred the launch of a “Climate Conservation” to engage with residents on a committed action plan.

The Council has since launched a new strategy to reduce its own emissions by 55% by 2025. You can read an in-depth look at Leeds’s net-zero target here.

RERF work

Work is now starting on the second phase of the district heating network following an additional £2.4m in funding from the Heat Network Investment Programme. The funding will add an extra 2.5km to the current 16.5km network.

The Leeds RERF was opened in 2016 to burn up to 150,000 tonnes of landfill waste annually, generating around 13MW of electricity. According to the council, the facility cost about £200m less than it would have to pay in landfill taxes.

At 138ft tall, it was one of the tallest timber buildings in Europe when it opened.

While some critics dispute the role of energy-from-waste, especially as businesses strive to reduce waste as part of the circular economy, the waste management industry still recognises the role the technology has in keeping residual waste out of landfill.

The UK produces around 27 million tonnes of residual waste annually and WRAP has described energy recovery as a “sensible and sustainable option”.

Matt Mace



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