Plans for Bridgend Council to share hot air


I couldn’t resist that headline…

….but on a more serious note, plans are being developed to create an innovative heating scheme in Bridgend town centre, following on from plans for a geothermal energy scheme pilot in Caerau (pdf).

A Brief Background

In 2014, Bridgend was selected to be the test bed for smart heating pilots – the one in Caerau I mentioned, as well as “town heat network” aka. District heating – explained in more detail here (pdf).

Three options for the heat network were drawn up: the Princess of Wales & Glanrhyd Hospitals, civic buildings in the town centre and the Princess of Wales Hospital & the town centre.

In the end, the town centre option received the best score.

What’s planned? How will it work?

In the proposed first phase, the existing gas-fired combined heat and power (CHP) generator and back-ups at Bridgend Life Centre will connect the Life Centre, Indoor Bowls Club, Bridgend Council Civil Offices on Angel Street and any future health and residential-related development at Sunnyside.

The heat generated by the CHP will be pumped as hot water to and between connected buildings, meaning each building will no longer need their own boilers or electric heaters (in short, “central heating for a town”).

The report says it will save 600 tonnes worth of carbon emissions every year compared to heating the buildings individually and will also save £690,000 compared to the cost of continuing as normal, with heating bills for connected buildings potentially falling by up to 10%.

An energy service company (ESCO) would be set up by BCBC to deliver the project. If it proceeds according to the proposed timetable, the network could be up and running by October 2020.

The network could also expand, with plans included in the report for connecting the Princess of Wales & Glanrhyd hospitals to Wildmill; expanding the first phase to cover the whole town centre; extensions to schools in Brackla, Brynteg School, Bridgend College and Bridgend Industrial Estate.

Will this actually happen? How much could it cost? What are the risks?

It’s not a done deal yet but this financial case, if approved by the Cabinet, will be a major step forward with more details likely to be revealed in October 2018.

The first phase (civic centre) is expected to cost £1.96million, with a 50-year lifetime budget of £5.5million.

BCBC is expecting to contribute just over £1million to Phase 1, with £794,000 of that being borrowed (possibly as an interest-free loan from the Welsh Government for which talks are ongoing). The rest is expected to come from UK and Welsh government grants – but that’s not agreed yet and funding may not be confirmed until March 2019.

Officers estimate the scheme could generate a net profit of up to £50,000 a year (after running costs are deducted).

There are also risks involved. Firstly, the CHP itself will need to be replaced every 15 years and makes up a big chunk of ongoing costs. Secondly, if grants from various sources aren’t awarded then the project may not go ahead. Thirdly, there’s always a risk that the prospective partners and customers in the network may not want to take part.

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