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A growing heat network in Greater Manchester

Heat networks already exist in Greater Manchester at Manchester Metropolitan University’s Birley Fields campus, at MediaCityUK and in the St Mary’s district of Oldham, while a Manchester city centre Civic Quarter network is approaching procurement for a delivery partner. The aim of the HNDU-funded studies is to investigate whether there is a technically and commercially viable case to develop new networks, and whether they can be linked in to existing systems.

Heat networks involve a series of pipes that distribute heat from a central source (or sources) to supply heating or hot water to domestic and non-domestic buildings. The heat source can vary from a dedicated supply, such as a combined heat and power plant or a water source heat pump, or can come from heat created as a by-product of other processes, such as waste incineration or heat recovered from a manufacturing facility.

It is estimated that approximately 15% of UK heat demand could be met by heat networks by 2030, and around 50% by 2050, with centralised heat production also more energy efficient, and capable of delivering carbon savings and reducing fuel bills.

The HNDU was set up in 2013 as part of the Government’s decarbonisation strategy and is designed to help local authorities explore heat network opportunities and move projects from feasibility to implementation.
Local authorities have been identified as playing a key role in the success of the networks by leading projects through development stages, supporting private networks through the planning system and by owning and operating the networks, as well as being a heat customer. Local authority involvement can also help retain benefits locally by delivering jobs and growth.

The six projects to have secured funding are:

Detailed feasibility:

1) Bolton – a detailed technical feasibility study is being undertaken, with the local authority keen to explore heat network development for core civic buildings, and the GM Waste Disposal Authority interested in supplying heat from an existing Energy from Waste (EfW) plant. The funding will help to determine whether matching these two objectives is technically and commercially possible.


2) Piccadilly Station – having already developed Birmingham New Street as a sustainable station, Network Rail are keen to explore the opportunities for something similar in Manchester. The study will look at the likelihood of a new gas-fired combined heat and power plant located within Piccadilly Station, generating electricity for the station, with heat exported to a local heat network for surrounding buildings. The project would also tie in to wider development plans around Piccadilly.

3) Pendleton – this work will assess the viability of heat network development at the residential-led Pendleton redevelopment site in Salford, either as a stand-alone network, or as a connection to the existing network at MediaCity UK.

4) Salford Central – the area is strategically located in a Greater Manchester heat network corridor which includes opportunities across Trafford, Salford, Central Manchester and East Manchester. With over £650m of investment currently going into sites such as Greengate, Middlewood Locks, New Bailey and Chapel Street, developers are likely to welcome a means of connecting to a network that supplies them with lower cost, low carbon heat.

5) Trafford Park – an investigation into the possibility of developing clusters of networks in the industrial park, and utilising local low carbon and/or waste heat supply sources. A potential link to MediaCity UK’s network will also be considered.

6) Regional Centre – this study will enable strategic planning and co-ordinated development of heat network projects across Trafford, Salford and East and Central Manchester, with the possibility of a regional level network. The study will focus on the legal, commercial and governance aspects of developing the existing pipeline of heat network projects.

“The networks will bring a series of long term economic and social benefits to Greater Manchester”, explains Alex Trebowicz, project manager from the Core Investment Team at Greater Manchester Combined Authority, which supports heat network development across all ten local authorities.

“They will provide low carbon and lower cost heating to domestic and commercial customers, and as a result play an important role in reducing city-wide carbon emissions and fuel poverty”, he explains. “They will also help to diversify the city region’s energy mix, as well as driving the low carbon services sector and offering local authorities a potential revenue stream. The networks also align with several regeneration programmes."

The exact amount of funding for each project will be released once consultants have been appointed, with the studies set to be completed by the end of the year.