Heat Project

ECOE Heat Project

in May 2016 we were awarded a Urban Community Energy Award of almost £20k to explore the feasibility of a community renewable energy generation project in Exeter.

We’re contacting potential partners, carrying our feasibility studies, researching legal agreements, creating a financial model and when we’ve found a viable project we’re be putting together a new business plan and setting up a Special Purposes Vehicle, a legal organisational structure that keeps the finances of a specific project separate from other areas of the organisation and arranging another community share offer to raise the necessary investment.

If you’re interested in learning more about community heat, Regen SW has written an excellent guide, we’re finding it invaluable.

We’ve been working with Ben Dodd from Green Fox, via the Coops Peer Mentoring project that provides 4 days of free mentoring support. Green Fox has successfully installed community-owned biomas projects. Ben’s mentoring is invaluable.

Our best possibility is finding an alternative to the inefficient biomass and gas boilers at County Hall with Devon County Council. We’ll also be investigating any schools that are off-gas grid in the Exeter area, any other possibilities in this off-gas grid for small a small biomass heat network and we’ll be talking to housing associations and Exeter City Council.

Do you know of a building or organisation that might be interested?

The factors that you need to consider are;

Are the boilers old and in need of repair or replacement?
Is the area off-gas?
Is there only currently one boiler and if more than one are they located close to one another?
Is access easy for delivering and is their space for storage of fuel.
For CHP, is the heat load constant as with a swimming pool, care home or leisure centre?

If you have any suggestions please contact ECOE.

June 2017

Securing the Urban Community Energy Fund (UCEF) has helped ECOE to understand in detail what a community heat project might entail. The reality is that heat projects are complex and not many community energy groups have completed one. Investigations have been progressing with the early focus on the possibility of a heat project at Devon County Council’s main office, County Hall, which has a high heat demand, old gas boilers and an inefficient biomass boiler. ReEnergise carried out the feasibility study including a site visit.

A new biomass boiler, where ECOE would claim the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) and a Combined Heat and Power (CHP) had most potential. The CHP would not only provide heat but also electricity that would be sold via a power purchase agreement to Devon County Council (DCC). We commissioned community renewable energy fincance models for biomass and CHP to check the viability. This showed that the only option, which was financially viable was the CHP. However, before we could present our findings to County Hall, DCC decided it was too high a risk to have heat provision out-sourced to a third party. A huge disappointment given the time and money spent on this investigation.

The remaining investigations are focusing mainly on Exwick as the only off-gas grid area of Exeter. DARE have completed a renewable heat mapping exercise of the off-gas grid area of Exwick. None of the schools are without gas and there are only a few community and commercial buildings/organisations that have shown up as a possibility. We’ve been talking to all of these, finding out if they’re interesting in partnering ECOE.

One possibility is a small heat network with some of the social housing belonging to the Guinness Trust and Sanctuary Housing Associations and we are waiting to hear back to see if either of them are interested. The other possibility is a small biomass project focused on Costcutters and Exwick Community Centre who share a building. This might include a small heat network. Costcutters have shown interest but it is proving difficult to find out what level of interest there is from Exwick Community Centre.

Outside of Exwick, the only other possibility we have is for a small CHP at the Phoenix to replace their inefficient old gas boiler. The Phoenix are interested and Exeter City Council is supportive.

August 2017

Our event – Renewable heat and heat networks: Opportunities for Exeter and community energy – in July was well received and well attended. Plans for Exeter’s extensive heat networks by Dextco were presented and the successful community energy biomas heat network by Springbok Coop. We heard about the changes of government policy and the complexities that have resulted in PEC and ECOE as yet not finding any viable project. All of the presentations can be found here.

Sadly ECOE has now closed the Heat project following no firm interest from Exwick Community Centre and Guinness Housing Trust. The other remaining possibility – a small CHP system for the Phoenix, which the Phoenix were very much interested in was not financially viable.

We hope some project may prove possible in the future.