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Swede dreams or within our grasp? The heat is turned up on Grimsby’s carbon neutral ambition

GRIMSBY’S carbon neutral ambition is building a head of steam as first steps exploring district heating opportunities are made.

Swede dreams or within our grasp? The heat is turned up on Grimsby’s carbon neutral ambition

Five potentially viable zones have been initially identified in North East Lincolnshire, as the local authority looks to build on the green credentials blown in by offshore wind. 

As reported in April, by 2050 borough leaders wants to eliminate fossil fuels, and together with Grimsby Renewables Partnership, the concept was explored with businesses at an event yesterday (Tuesday, August 1).

With news of British Gas prices rising being broadcast as delegates attended, the challenge to meet and beat the existing offer was clear, and with Government making it such a priority – heating accounts for 40 per cent of the energy we consume – there is a third of a billion pound pot to bid into, making a strong incentive.  

Tony Neul, strategic commissioning lead for energy and environment, introduced the concept to businesses gathered at Humber Cruising Association, alongside Peter Anderberg from Nordic Heat, an advisory organisation. NELC is looking to Scandinavian cousins for a solution, with Sweden the world leader.

District heating uses heat generating centres or industry where heat is wasted, and with a pipe network, controls and redistributes it in the vicinity.

Heavy industry and cold storage, both strong here, are seen as huge bonuses.

Explaining how councillors, officers and some stakeholders had been briefed, and were receptive, Mr Neul said: “We have really had some positive support and have been asked to develop a more detailed proposition. This is part of the engagement process, and we hope everyone feels we are going in the right direction. It is about how can we maximise the benefit for the people of North East Lincolnshire, whether we are making sure we get the jobs or we get reduced fuel bills. We have set out our ambition, and essentially it is to be carbon neutral by 2050. 

“Some of the recent announcements nationally – banning petrol and diesel cars, moving towards electric; the government phasing out natural gas, these are significant statements, with significance in the UK and worldwide, and it will be around electrification technology. If we are moving towards a low carbon energy infrastructure, being carbon neutral isn’t as far fetched as people may think.”

Turning to why this was the place to take it forward, Mr Neul said: “Why North East Lincolnshire? Significant investment in offshore wind, billions of pounds, means this area is getting significant attention from government and other stakeholders.

“A key part of our sales pitch to government and external investors is ‘why not try things in other parts of the UK?’. If the UK want to try something, it is London, Manchester or Leeds. Why not North East Lincolnshire? We have challenges, but we have opportunities. We say come and try things here, look at innovative technology here. That is a key part of the message. 

“Another challenge and opportunity is we have here energy intensive industry sectors, not prevalent elsewhere in the UK. That’s a challenge if we are going to reduce energy consumption that has to be sorted, the chemical and petrochemical sector.”

District heating also has the potential to ease costs on such giants and make them more competitive globally by paying for the heat taken, easing the bottom line.

“There is also affordability of warmth,” Mr Neul continued. “We still live in a society where people choose between eating and heating homes. Our level is higher than the national average because of areas of deprivation. That’s something on the political agenda and we can solve the two in tandem. If we can generate a business model, reinvest in the community, we can begin to tackle fuel poverty on a much bigger scale.

“A lot of things stack up that make us fairly unique, not least that we have global energy suppliers on our doorstep. What other parts of the UK have such major companies located and operating in the area? Our aspiration is to work with these sorts of people. I think we stand an excellent chance to do that.” 

He said a public-private partnership would be required to deliver it, and told how early successful bidding into central funds had allowed the early heat mapping exercise.

“It is something government is taking extremely seriously, and something we have already accessed,” he said.

The favoured sites the mapping has thrown up are:

Diana, Princess of Wales Hospital
Grimsby Institute
Cromwell Road and Great Coates Industrial Estate
Stallingborough Industrial Zone
Immingham town

They include immediate surrounding areas.

Mr Neul said: “These five are particularly viable. The hospital is highly complex and unlikely to go to feasibility because it has recently invested in gas-fired heat and power to provide electricity for the site, but there are at least four areas that stack up for further investment.” 

Mr Anderberg founded Nordic Heat to export the know how behind what has happened in Sweden over the past 50 years.

“We came here 1,300 years ago, we are bringing pipes not swords this time,” he joked, explaining how 60 per cent of all heat consumed in Sweden is from district systems, with chemical plants and refineries providing huge percentages of cities’ needs. 

About to see the first pipes laid on a system in Stoke, Staffordshire, he told how there were three main factors that stopped people investing – risk, price and perception – and he described the public model as important in taking the fear away.

“Public ownership is a big factor,” he said. “People will pay if they see the money goes to the public coffers, but if it ends up in the Cayman Islands they find it harder to accept.”

District heat supply is typically 10 per cent cheaper than conventional, but another factor is losing control of choice.

“There is the notion that I am king of my own house and I don’t want to be connected to a public monopoly,” Mr Anderberg said. “People think of Moscow, the Soviet Union. It is a difficulty, but it is a marketing difficulty not a technical difficulty.

There is a need to emphasise other things. The biggest factor is convenience. You don’t need to have a gas boiler. Why do you want to be an energy producer if you are a two child family? It is reliability and price too, providing something cheaper is a very important factor.” 

In the audience of more than 20 representatives, Andy Dickson, operations manager for All NRG in Grimsby, could see an immediate link. He said: “This is the food town of the UK, we have a lot of cold storage, a lot of condensers on the back of them pumping heat in to the atmosphere.”

With 1GW of installed capacity in offshore wind just recently passed for the town, Chris Holden, hosting director of GRP, drew on the similarities of an emerging opportunity. He said: “If I had stood in front of you 10 years ago and spoken about offshore wind we would have all said ‘it doesn’t sound right, it won’t happen’. It is something there for us to grasp.” 

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