Islington Council aims to set up a borough-wide heat network that could potentially reduce carbon emissions by 60 per cent.
The first stage linking up to 700 homes will launch in 2011.
Islington Council plans to create a borough-wide district heating network, initially to supply cheaper and greener heating to more than 700 homes and two leisure centres using a gas-powered combined heat and power energy centre.
The council will procure and own the heat network, giving Islington the option for expansion in the future. A contract for the work is expected to be awarded in Spring 2011.
An external grant of £2.3 million for the first phase has come from the Greater London Authority's Targeted Funding Stream. In October 2010, the council's Executive approved a further £1.9 million of Growth Funding from the Homes and Communities Agency. The entire project is expected to pay back the initial investment over 20 years.
The key driver for the scheme is reducing fuel poverty. Residents' heating bills could fall by up to 40 per cent once the plan is implemented, meaning they could each save around £200 each year.
The council also has a target of a borough-wide 40 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2020 (based on 2005 levels).
Council officers have worked to ensure that all parts of the council, including senior councillors and all relevant departments, have been involved with the project from the beginning.
To manage resident expectations, a detailed communications strategy is set to start soon. This will include regular meetings and presentations to residents and tenant management organisations. Officers at Islington believe it is important to make it clear to residents that there will be no work done to individual homes. Since the estates are already heated from a communal boiler house, there will be minimal disruption. There will be some public road digging, which will have to be carefully managed.
Ordinarily, there is a legal requirement to re-charge leaseholders for all housing investment, which could have proved a major obstacle to the project. But the council achieved a legal ruling protecting leaseholders from any rise because it could show that the scheme was not routine upgrading work. By demonstrating that the project's aims were tackling fuel poverty and carbon reduction, it was agreed that leaseholders should not cover the costs through higher bills.
As mentioned above, getting leaseholders on-side early was very important. Similarly, it was essential to get the highways department on board from the start as potential roadworks would be necessary in the construction of the heating project.
Technical advisors from the Combined Heat and Power Association have been valuable consultants for the project.
CHP is not just for a few fortunate councils with a perfect mix of resources. Lucy Padfield, the council's Energy Services Manager, explains:
"We don't have something special like a nearby power station, waste treatment centre or large open spaces. In fact, we are the perfect example of not having anything out of the ordinary in terms of suitability for a project. But what we do have are special, committed people, who understand our borough, and want to drive this forward."
Along with savings on residents' bills, the energy costs of running the leisure centre and baths will be cheaper; a saving that can be passed on to local people.
The heating will be more reliable because new CHP engines are more efficient. In future, the network can easily be extended to reach a larger part of the borough.
The borough-wide scheme will contribute to reducing carbon emissions, potentially by 60 percent.
This type of development is supported at all levels within the emerging local development framework, from strategic policies within the core strategy to detailed development management policies and further guidance within a draft sustainable design supplementary planning document. For around two years all new development in the borough has been required to be ready to connect to a district heating network.
Lucy Padfield, Energy Services Manager
London Borough of Islington Council