£15m funding approved for Cardiff district heat network

Cardiff’s £26.5-million district-heating network project, has secured £15 million to begin the first phase of works.

Using heat generated at Viridor’s Trident Park Energy Recovery Facility (ERF), which recently celebrated processing one million tonnes of residual waste, Cardiff City Heating Network will divert approximately 350,000 tonnes of non-recyclable waste from landfill every year.

£15m funding approved for Cardiff district heat networkThe plan will generate enough electricity to power around 68,448 households using underground pipes to transport heat from an energy recovery facility to businesses and homes.

Buildings connected to the network will no longer need to rely on gas to heat their property, reducing energy bills and the city’s carbon emissions.

The project, which could potentially be operational within two years of the start of installation works, is the first of its kind in Wales, and has received support via a £8.6-million loan from the Welsh Government and a £6-million grant from the UK Government.

The network is to be owned by an independent company through a Special Purpose Vehicle, with the council acting as a major shareholder.

Cabinet Member for Clean Streets and the Environment, Cllr Michael Michael, said: "This is an exciting opportunity for Cardiff to develop a new, low-carbon, energy infrastructure, fueled by an existing facility in the city. The Heat Network is one the council’s key projects in our response to climate change, so this is really exciting news.

“Analysis shows that if all the heat available from the plant is fully utilised, we could save 5,600 tonnes of carbon each year and the customers signed up to the network could cut their annual energy bills by five per cent on average, while reducing their heating system’s carbon emissions by up to 80 per cent.

“The business case shows that the first phase of the network is financially viable and I would like to thank both the Welsh Government and central government who have committed to backing this project with cash so first phase works can go out to tender and we can begin the build.”

The initial phase of the network will provide heating to a number of large buildings in the city, including County Hall (or a replacement council headquarters), the new Indoor Arena, the Millennium Centre, Tŷ Hywel, Cardiff and Vale College’s main building, and Tresllian House.

Other smaller buildings, or parts of buildings, will also be connected to the network, including parts of the Butetown Hub, the main entrance of Butetown Community Centre and Cardiff and Vale College’s Construction Centre.

Discussions are also underway with private developers looking to develop land within the first phase of the project. After this phase is completed, the network may be extended to other customers, helping the area to become more environmentally sustainable.

Key buildings which could benefit from the Heat Network in the proposed second phase have been approached by the council, with commercial terms yet to be agreed. This phase would also be subject to a separate tender process and further financial funding.

Potential buildings which could link to the network in the second phase of the development include, Cardiff Magistrates’ Court, Cardiff University’s McKenzie House and Queen’s Buildings, Cardiff Royal Infirmary and the BBC Roath Park Studios.

Lesley Griffiths, the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, said: “I am very pleased to be able to announce confirmation of the funding to the first phase of the Cardiff City Heat Network.

“As we continue on our path to cutting carbon emissions across Wales, one of the key problems we have to tackle is not only making our buildings more energy efficient, but also to improve how we get our heating in the first place.

“Heat networks such as these will help home and business owners to cut down on their energy bills – but it will also help us to meet our goal of cutting Wales’ greenhouse gas emissions.”

Viridor CEO Phil Piddington said the company’s series of ERFs across the UK had been designed to be combined heat and power plants and he was pleased to see this potential being fully realised at Trident Park ERF.

Mr Piddington said: “Viridor has developed combined heat and power plants which attach a purpose to waste which can’t be recycled because this is how we meaningfully contribute to both energy and resource efficiency in the UK. The opportunity to see the full potential of Trident Park ERF realised through this exciting project is the natural progression Viridor has been working so hard to achieve with district heating network partners.

“Cardiff residents will also have the opportunity to see waste the way Viridor sees it, as a resource and not rubbish, and we hope this encourages other cities served by energy recovery facilities to follow this innovative example.”

Trident Park courted controversy during lockdown as Cardiff Council announced that it would be sending recyclables to be incinerated at Viridor’s ERF plant as “the safest option” for residents and crews during the crisis.

Residents were asked to continue separating their waste for kerbside collections in order to prevent the breaking of good recycling habits, which had previously contributed to Cardiff’s 59 per cent recycling rate.

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