A project to build a new combined heat and power (CHP) plant and district heating network in Cambridge, in the UK, has secured £150,000 towards the £250,000 ($400,000) needed to deliver a final business plan covering financing and design.

Cambridge City Council and the University of Cambridge are looking into a £25m ($40m) joint project for a 2-10 MW gas-fired plant and a heat network, said James Beal, advisor of the Low Carbon Development Initiative (LCDI), which is driving the project.

Cambridge district heat plan

‘Some buildings in Cambridge’s conservation areas are always going to be leaky, only so much can be done, so providing a low-carbon heat solution with associated lower-cost electricity is very appealing,’ he told COSPP.

The network would serve both council and college buildings, where it could help meet high electricity demand from science faculties and potentially local businesses, he said. Two or three sites are under consideration for the power plant.

A study for Cambridge City Council by Aecom found a district heating network with two heat centres could deliver an internal rate of return (IRR) of 7%, while cutting its customers’ carbon dioxide emissions from heating by 60%.

The project has been shown to be ‘investible’ through raising debt by the council or the university, said Beal.

‘As a guiding principle, the CHP would probably be operated by a commercial operator, but the council and university would be keen to have a strong control so the network can be developed to deliver further benefits,’ he said.

The new funding for the project will go towards completing a detailed financial appraisal, along with design work and site selection, over the next two years.

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