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Birmingham District Energy Scheme | Engie

Engie won the Public Sector Project of the Decade Award at the Association for Decentralised Energy's Awards Dinner on the 19th October 2017 for Birmingham District Energy Scheme. 

Birmingham District Energy Scheme | Engie | Visionary

The Birmingham District Energy Scheme (BDES), provides low-carbon heat, cooling and power to users of the decentralised network in Birmingham. The award winning scheme boasts a mixture of tri-generation and co-generation energy centres supplying Council buildings, Aston University, Birmingham New Street Station and the Birmingham Children͛s Hospital amongst other users. Users benefit from reliable supply with reduced carbon emissions in addition to lower energy costs.

BDES plays a pivotal role in Birmingham City Council͛s climate change strategy, which aims to reduce carbon emissions by 60% by 2027. The scheme is a working partnership between ENGIE and Birmingham City Council and includes three district energy networks, built, owned and operated by ENGIE, under the name of Birmingham District Energy Company (BDEC).

BDEC comprises three schemes, Broad Street scheme, a tri-generation (heat, power and cooling) system, and two eastside schemes; Aston University Campus and Birmingham Children͛s Hospital, which are both combined heat and power led systems. 

Customers include the International Convention Centre, Barclaycard Arena, Library of Birmingham, Birmingham Children͛s Hospital and residential and educational buildings on Aston campus and council housing.

Expanding the scheme

Due to the scheme͛s' significant delivery of financial and carbon savings to its consumers, it has rapidly expanded to supply several third party private developments.

In 2013, BDEC added a tri-generation energy centre in conjunction with the Library of Birmingham development. The purpose-built plant provides low carbon energy to the Library of Birmingham building and the REP Theatre. It is connected to the existing Broad Street scheme to export and import heat, thereby adding further capacity and resilience to the system.

In 2016, working with Network Rail, BDEC successfully connected the Broad Street heating network to the newly refurbished Birmingham New Street Station (BNSS). A new 1.6 MWe CHP engine was installed as part of the project providing both BNSS and the new flag-ship John Lewis Partnership store with low carbon heat and power. The connection to the station and John Lewis store allowed the interconnection of the existing schemes, integrating the Broad Street and Aston University district networks with ~1.5km of pre-insulated buried pipe.

Scheme operation

Enabling longer operating hours of the CHPs (reducing imported electricity) improves efficiency, resulting in additional citywide capacity, resilience and an anticipated further 3,000 tonnes of carbon emissions saved per annum.

Since operation in 2007, there has only been 8 hours of down time demonstrating near 99.9% availability of the robust infrastructure. This is a credit to the Operational Team who operates and maintains the network 24hours a day for 365 days a year.

Legacy of the Scheme

The BDEC scheme is arguably one of the first effective and successful large scale city embedded district heating schemes in the UK. BDEC has acted as a reference case study for other city district heating schemes. Indeed, it has attracted national and international interest as reference example of a successful district scheme. BDEC allowed the organisation to grow with other schemes to be installed and operated by ENGIE.

The BDEC scheme saves on average above 15,000 tCO2 per annum in Birmingham and through district heating ENGIE has received two Queens Awards for Sustainable Development in which BDEC certainly contributed. Since 2013, BDEC has saved 66,694 tCO2.

BDEC has won a number of other awards, including the Partners in Expert Services Award in the PFM 2011 Awards, and was also voted Overall Winner 2011 (best of the best') by the judges. In 2014, the scheme won the Public Sector category of the Combined Heat and Power Association awards. In 2015, the Aston University district network was Highly Commended by the ADE in the Campus, Community and Residential category.

The benefits of district heating have recently been demonstrated in a revision of the Birmingham Development Plan policy to encourage developments to connect to district heating networks.

The recent interconnection linking the Broad Street scheme and Aston scheme through Birmingham New Street Station is embedded in the heart of Birmingham City providing more opportunity for connections and potential expansion to regeneration areas. Birmingham New Street Station (BNSS) is one of the first Network Rail stations to utilise the benefits of CHP allowing it to be one of the greenest train stations in the UK. The recent installation of the BNSS CHP envisages annual savings increasing by 3,000 tCO2 per year.

Most recently a ground breaking partnership has also been developed with Aston University͛s prestigious European Bio-Energy Research Institute (EBRI) to apply and incorporate its onsite research and skills in the overall Birmingham scheme. This will operate as a test facility to explore a range of alternative energies including how waste products from sewage, algae, agricultural and municipal waste, and crops on marginal land, can be converted into energy for heat and electricity. The EBRI CHP will be connected to the Aston main district heating network, decarbonising the main network. The programme will demonstrate the first commercial interoperation of small-scale bio-energy generation with a city wide heat network.

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