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Leeds gives green light to eco-friendly energy system for 22,000 homes

Leeds City Council has this week backed plans to introduce a major new scheme to provide residents with low cost, more environmentally-friendly energy.

At a meeting on Monday, councillors endorsed plans to create a “district heating network” for the city that will use heat created from the council’s Recycling and Energy Recovery Facility (RERF) being used to provide hot water for households and businesses through a system of underground pipes.

Costing £40m, the project will power 22,000 homes and is expected to be completed and ready to go by April 2019 following a public consultation into the plans.

The project will initially see a pipeline created to take hot water from the RERF, in Cross Green in the east of the city, to properties in and around the city centre and Lincoln Green, including for council managed multi storey flats.

Supporting infrastructure to be built opposite the RERF is also included as part of the plans. The council added that there is scope for the scheme to be expanded to other parts of the city if this initial scheme is successful.

“The district heating network is a fantastic project, helping us to make a real difference to people’s lives by tackling fuel poverty, improving air quality and delivering affordable and efficient heating while at the same time also creating jobs and learning opportunities,” said Cllr Lucinda Yeadon, Leeds City Council executive member for environment and sustainability.

“It also further underlines the value of the RERF to Leeds with this clever use of the energy it produces to warm homes and buildings, so we look forward to following the progress of this very exciting project as it develops.”

The authority said that the project will benefit residents by reducing bills of vulnerable residents through creating a system that is 10% more efficient, thereby reducing fuel poverty, and also improve air quality around the city by making ageing boilers connected to the network redundant.

It will also create jobs and skill opportunities, and the infrastructure for the pipes could also be used to add superfast broadband to properties.

However, opposition councillors raised some issues with the plans, saying that they did not come without “significant risk”.

“The history of district heating schemes in this country up until fairly recently has - possibly with a couple of exceptions - not been a happy one,” said Conservative leader Cllr Andrew Carter.

“It’s a multi-million-pound project. There is a series of risks here. I am not entirely sure that we are not being over optimistic to put it bluntly.”

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