Inside the plant room at the Metropolitan King’s Cross CHP project – a 2 MW CHP unit is at the heart of the installation


The annual UK CHP Association Awards usually offer some clues to the status of the combined heat and power market in Britain. This year saw a new emphasis on CHP-based district heating schemes serving mainly public sector homes, as Steve Hodgson reports.

New district heating schemes in London and Glasgow won both the public sector, and the campus, community and residential awards, while a CHP scheme serving an industrial site in Scotland won the industry and commerce award. A micro-CHP scheme based on solid oxide fuel cell technology won the award for innovation. Put another way, a community centre, a medical device manufacturing plant, and residents of more than 2,000 homes are now benefiting from reduced energy bills resulting from the installation of CHP and district heating schemes, while fuel cell-based micro-CHP is finally a reality in the UK.

Presenting the awards at a dinner held in London last November, CHPA president Lord Risby stressed the benefits for householders connected to district heating schemes: “We should be proud of the impact that CHP and district heating have in ensuring that some of the most vulnerable in our society have access to secure and affordable sources of heat.”

The oak-clad Bunhill Energy Centre in the London Borough of Islington

Heat – as opposed to power – is a relatively new focus for the UK CHPA.

Earlier in the day the CHPA and the UK Energy Institute held their second annual conference on the subject, at which UK Minister for Energy and Climate Change, Greg Barker, announced that the UK’s new Green Investment Bank (GIB) would have a new focus on funding district heating projects. Indeed, the UK district heating sector is in an optimistic mood, encouraged by the formation of the government’s Heat Network Delivery Unit (HNDU) last year.

The HNDU is tasked with finding ways around the major obstacle to getting new district heating schemes built – establishing the networks of heating pipework which are required for such systems.

The bank will be liaising closely with the HNDU, and is looking for refinance and new-build projects with both the public and private sectors. Barker said that the GIB was itself encouraged by the formation of the HNDU, and also by the flood of applications made local authorities with projects that need funding.

On the industrial side, the CHPA is currently running a campaign to have CHP supported as a way of controlling energy costs at UK industrial sites. With UK energy bills on the rise, investment in high efficiency CHP could be the key to staying in business for some industrial sectors. However, energy tax changes enacted in the UK earlier last year – for example the removal of Climate Change Levy exemption for CHP schemes – damaged the case for the technology which the government claims also to be supporting. According to the CHPA, the tax changes have left some of the UK’s most energy efficient sites with energy bill increases up to three times higher than those supplied from less efficient, gas-fired power stations.

More than 130,000 jobs are based on sites which use CHP, led by those in the petroleum, food and drink, chemicals and pulp and paper sector, adds the Association. The CHPA is now calling for complete exemption, for all CHP plants, from the government’s new Carbon Price Support tax.

Speaking after the UK Chancellor’s December autumn statement failed to address the issue, CHPA director, Dr Tim Rotheray, said: “By reducing taxes on CHP, we could be improving industrial competitiveness to support jobs and growth in the face of rising energy costs, helping businesses at the hundreds of industrial sites located across the country which use CHP. This year’s double tax rise on the UK’s most efficient sites are causing industry to consider if they can remain competitive in the UK. We urge the Chancellor to further examine the evidence, recognize the value that energy efficient industry contributes to the economy, and take action.”

Meanwhile, these award-winning schemes show what really can be done with combined heat and power.

Industrial and Commercial Award

ENER-G Combined Power won the Industrial and Commercial Award for its CHP system installed at medical instrument manufacturer LifeScan’s facility in Inverness, Scotland. The 230 kWe CHP system will provide LifeScan with annual cost savings of around £100,000, whilst reducing its carbon emissions by more than 600 tonnes each year.

Johnson & Johnson company LifeScan Scotland manufactures blood glucose monitoring devices and the Inverness facility is a key research and development location for the global group. In a bid to boost its sustainability rating and meet green objectives, LifeScan considered several options to reduce carbon emissions and cut energy bills. After evaluation, the company decided CHP would be the most viable, both in terms of cost and in carbon emission savings.

The company approached ENER-G to deliver a CHP installation for the site. After analysis, ENER-G designed, manufactured and installed the CHP system, which has been integrated with site’s boiler network system to supply the manufacturing facility with low-temperature hot water, as well as power. The system is fully containerised and includes roof-mounted dry air coolers.

Since installing the gas-fired CHP system in April 2012, carbon emissions at the site have been reduced by 21%, and electricity consumption is down by more than half (53%), lowering the energy bill by 27%, says ENER-G. As a large site, LifeScan is subject to the UK government’s Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) Energy Efficiency scheme, a mandatory scheme aimed at improving energy efficiency and cutting emissions in large public and private sector organisations. The CHP system is making a substantial contribution towards Lifescan’s CRC performance.

LifeScan purchased the CHP system outright – as opposed to entering an energy services agreement – and should achieve a return on its investment in just over two years. This first installation has prompted LifeScan to purchase another CHP unit from the company, says ENER-G. The second unit is due to be operational in the first quarter of this year.

Jason Whitley, LifeScan’s Facilities Senior Project Engineer, said: “We are continually seeking ways to raise our environmental performance and this move to on-site generation of power is a key element of our carbon-cutting strategy. We are very pleased to be partnering with ENER-G, which is able to provide us with a total service – from initial design to long-term care of the [CHP] systems.”

Campus, Community and Residential Award

The Campus, Community and Residential Award was won by SSE Heat Networks (part of Scottish and Southern Energy) for its CHP-based district heating scheme on the Wyndford Estate in Maryhill, Glasgow, also in Scotland. The scheme, built for Cube Housing Association by SSE in partnership with Vital Energi, will deliver heat to almost 2,000 properties and is part of one of the largest retrofit schemes in the UK.

At Wyndford the new CHP energy system, in conjunction with over-cladding of the estate’s tower blocks, is saving the emission of 7,000 tonnes of carbon each year. It has also cut around 20% from the heating bills of residents living in this deprived part of Glasgow. The judges said that Wyndford was an outstanding project, which has made a real difference to the lives of the community in which it is situated.

The Wyndford scheme was jointly funded by SSE and Scottish Gas; the latter providing funding via the government’s Community Energy Saving Programme (CESP). CESP funding is provided by energy suppliers and electricity generators to areas of low income in order to improve energy efficiency standards and reduce fuel bills.

Cube Housing Association sees the key aim of the retro-fit low carbon energy scheme as a way to reduce fuel poverty and ensure that its housing stock meets the UK’s Decent Homes standard. An estimated 658,000 households were in fuel poverty in Scotland in 2010. The homes included in the scheme were all previously heated by electric storage heaters. Cube says it chose Vital Energi and SSE partly because their proposal included individual pre-payment meters in each property to help tenants control their energy consumption and reduce their bills.

At the core of the £27 million scheme is Vital Energi’s bespoke Energy Centre which comprises a 1.2 MW CHP engine and a thermal store with a capacity of 120,000 litres. Three 4.5 MW gas boilers provide back-up and peak load heat requirements. The CHP system removes the need for each home to have an individual boiler. The electricity generated by the CHP engine is exported to the local grid.

Around 2.7 km of underground pipes distribute hot water from the Energy Centre to the individual buildings connected to the district heating scheme. The main district heating pipes are constructed from steel and include an alarm leak detection system. They are highly insulated, with a very low thermal loss over long distances, says Vital.

Heat is transferred from the incoming district heating pipework, via risers and lateral pipework, into the individual properties’ internal heating system via a heat exchanger contained in a hydraulic interface unit. These units provide instantaneous heat and hot water on demand.

The Wyndford scheme is playing a major role in helping the city of Glasgow meet its ambitious 30% carbon reduction target.

The Public Sector Award

The London Borough of Islington and Vital Energi together won the Public Sector Award for their work on the CHP-based Bunhill Heat and Power Network. A district-scale heat network, Bunhill Heat and Power serves more than 700 homes and two leisure centres located in the south of Islington, close to the historic City of London. This mixed use scheme has flourished in a challenging inner city environment and is a powerful example of an effective public/private sector partnership, its backers say.

Interior view shows the solid oxide fuel cell micro-CHP unit (left) installed at the Madeley Centre in Crewe

The highly efficient CHP energy scheme at Bunhill, which cuts emissions by around 1,600 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, will also trim residents’ annual heating bills by around £150.

The judges said they admired how the revenue from the scheme is being used to make a positive impact in the lives of the borough’s residents by being passed on in reduced heat charges.

The Bunhill Energy Centre is part of Islington Council’s Decentralised Energy Programme, which aims to cut carbon emissions and fuel bills across the borough. The programme is itself part of the council’s efforts to meet its target of a 40% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020, and to help alleviate fuel poverty. Owned and managed by the Council, construction of the energy centre and heat network was funded by grants sourced from the London Development Agency and also the Homes and Community Agency.

The Council’s ownership and management of the scheme will help to maximize benefits for the local community and energy bill savings for residents. Islington has won praise for being one of the most pioneering local authorities in the country on combating climate change and addressing fuel poverty.

The Energy Centre has been designed in a modular way to allow flexibility and provide room for expansion, with potential to expand across boroughs and connect to nearby district heating schemes in the future. The 2 MW CHP engine is housed in one container and there is a separate 115,000 litre external thermal store. In addition, 2 km of district heating pipes have been installed to carry hot water between the local energy centre and the buildings connected to the network. Vital Energi will operate and maintain the energy centre for the next ten years.

At the request of the client, Vital Energi adopted a ‘plug and play’ method of construction with all the major components manufactured and prefabricated off-site in order to reduce disruption to residents. The energy centre is surrounded by a 4 metre-high oak fence, and new mature trees and climbing plants have been introduced to help it blend in with its surroundings.

The Innovation Award

The Innovation Award was presented to Ceramic Fuel Cells for the BlueGen fuel cell micro-CHP unit installed at the Madeley Centre, a community facility near Crewe, Staffordshire, England. Alongside the technological innovation, the scheme delivers social benefits too, providing reduced fuel bills to residents of the centre.

The Madeley Centre provides a range of community facilities to support the health, welfare and well-being of local people. Through these facilities the Centre delivers a range of opportunities for young and old, run by the community for the benefit of the community, in a sustainable way.

The Centre directly supports the residents of the attached Lea Court, a sheltered housing and extra care scheme owned by housing association Housing 21.

The Centre combines a range of environmental technologies and green solutions, including a ground source heat pump, PV and solar thermal panels, a natural ventilation system and a green roof – in addition to the new fuel cell-based micro-CHP unit.

The savings accruing from this BlueGen micro-CHP installation will reduce the overall heating bills, even after offsetting the cost of the electricity consumed by the ground source heat pump. The proportional saving will be passed onto the residents through reduced charges for heating their shared space.

In addition to the Madeley Centre’s own charitable funding, National Grid Affordable Warmth Solutions also supported the installation of BlueGen device at the centre as part of its campaign to reduce energy bills for vulnerable homes and communities.

Commended schemes

Industrial and Commercial Award – 2G Energy and Kraft Foods UK Production were highly commended for the anaerobic digestion CHP scheme at Kraft Foods in Banbury, Oxfordshire, England.

Public Sector Award – Clarke Energy was highly commended for its CHP facility and district heating scheme installed at Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland. This features an 845 kWe gas engine-based CHP scheme that helps save the university £250,000 in operational costs and 750 tonnes of carbon per annum.

Innovation Award – Edina Group and CTEC Energy were highly commended for the CHP unit and heat recovery system at Swancote Energy Plant. This features an anaerobic digestion plant that turns local food and other wastes into feedstock for the CHP unit.

Campus, Community and Residential Award – Metropolitan King’s Cross and Vital Energi were highly commended for a pioneering CHP energy system at King’s Cross in central London. The judges were impressed with the progress made on this high profile scheme – one of Europe’s largest city centre regeneration projects.

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