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Harnessing Liverpool's river water for energy sustainability

Liverpool's Three Graces building behind Albert Dock

Peel NRE's low carbon district heat network, Mersey Heat, has been awarded more than £6.2m in Government funding to investigate expanding the network to include Liverpool's Three Graces buildings and surrounding properties at Pier Head, according to reporting by Future Cities Forum member, Vital Energi

The grant for Peel NRE totalling £6,266,000 from the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), it says, was made official recently in partnership with Triple Point Heat Networks Investment Management:

'It will also help to fund one of two 3MW low-carbon heat pumps, the first of which will be a water source heat pump at Peel NRE's energy centre at Great Howard Street.

'This new funding also enables Mersey Heat to undertake further feasibility studies to extend the network to the Pier Head and to be able to offer low carbon heat to the Grade I listed Royal Liver Building, the Grade II listed Cunard and Port of Liverpool buildings in partnership with the buildings' owners.

'The Grade II listed George's Dock Building and the Museum of Liverpool which opened in 2011 will also be included in the designs for the heat network extension.

'More than 2.5km of pipework for the 4.1km network has already been installed and when complete, Mersey Heat will provide low carbon heat and hot water to up to 9,000 homes and 4 million sq ft of commercial space at Peel's L&P's £5bn Liverpool Waters development and nearby buildings.

'Apartments at the newly converted Tobacco Warehouse at Stanley Dock are already receiving heat from the network soon to be followed by The Titanic Hotel and Southern Warehouse and Liverpool Waters' Princes Parade.

'Construction work for Peel NRE's energy centre to serve Mersey Heat is expected to start on site early 2022, housing low-carbon technology to save around 4,200 tonnes of carbon per year.

'This will be achieved through the primary use of water source heat pumps and thermal stores capable of holding 260 cubic metres of hot water. Heat only gas boilers with up to a combined capacity of 40MW will act as a back up and for use during times of peak demand.

'Marking another step forward in the government's Clean Growth Strategy, the funding for Mersey Heat will come from the £320m Heat Networks Investment Project (HNIP) fund.'

The Department for Business, Energy & industrial Strategy's (BEIS) Leader in Local Energy, Patrick Allcorn, spoke at our Future Cities Forums in 2020 and 2021 on the future of green energy and sustainability in towns and cities. Patrick said:

'District heat networks are part of the solution for big urban centres where there is high heat use. Heat is the biggest use of energy in the UK, bigger than transport use. The heat challenge is the biggest challenge we have. Nottingham has had a district heat network for 40 years - it is not new technology but it matters where the source of heat comes from, for example, taking people off oil and replacing it with something else to provide a significant carbon saving. A gas unit is not necessarily producing high carbon savings, so you have to think about the transition to hydrogen in the future for this. The big win is in low emission fuels.

'There is also a big win around mass take up, not so much around individual choices. So public sector swimming pools and hospitals can drive the economies of those heat networks. It is much harder to reach lower demand heat communities, so it has been necessary for the public sector to lead that debate.'

Vital Energi joined the debate at our forum in March 2021. Mike Cooke, Managing Director (North and Midlands) at Vital Energi, described his experience of working with councils and developers and the lessons the company had learned along the way:

'We recognise the difficult and arduous journey through the planning and procurement stage of these projects. It often takes only a third of the total time duration to actually execute the projects as opposed to the planning as the hurdles are often at the front end. There is a lot of brain power to get the concepts across the finish line and construction side is often much simpler. The validation of the business case can change over time from being around carbon currently to historically being around economics.

'We are seeing a huge transition in technology from fossil fuels to renewables. As Patrick (Allcorn) said, this is in the electrification of heat. We are on the edge of real change and we have the 'energy trilemma' which is made up of the challenge of security of supply, the carbon reduction element and then the cost of energy. Unless we do something radical with cost of energy we will see price increases. The challenge is also how we embed the new technologies to help reduce carbon.'


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