Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Community Energy Fund (CEF) Feasibility Study

What is the purpose of the feasibility study for the Littlebury Energy Project?

  • The feasibility study aims to assess the viability of decarbonisation approaches for Littlebury village, primarily focusing on communal heat networks. This study is crucial for securing funding and guiding the project’s next steps. Bioregional and EQUANS are collaborating to conduct the study. Bioregional specialises in renewable energy strategies and community engagement, while EQUANS brings extensive engineering expertise. Together, they aim to deliver a comprehensive analysis tailored to Littlebury’s needs.

How does feasibilty work?

  • The study will assess the village’s energy demand, explore options for improving energy efficiency in buildings, evaluate renewable energy sources like water, air, and ground source heat networks, and engage with residents and businesses to gather feedback on proposed solutions.
  • Community engagement is a key aspect of the study. Residents and business owners will have opportunities to provide input through surveys, community events, and other outreach activities. Community feedback will help shape the recommendations presented in the feasibility report.
  • Following the feasibility study, the project may progress to Stage 2 of the Community Energy Fund (CEF) grant scheme. This could involve further development of the preferred decarbonization option, securing funding for implementation, and continued community involvement in the project.

How can community members stay informed about the progress of the feasibility study?

  • Regular updates on the study’s progress, upcoming events, and opportunities for community input will be shared through various channels, such as village newsletters, community meetings, and the project website. Residents are encouraged to stay engaged and provide feedback throughout the process.

District Heat Networks

What is a district heat network, and how does it work?

A district heat network refers to a heating system which uses a common heat source (or sources) for use by multiple users. Like a traditional boiler supplies heat for your home, a heat network uses a central plant to capture the heat, and then a network of pipes around the community to distribute the heat to buildings. You can think of the heat network as a central heating system for the whole community. 

The energy plant acts as a ‘boiler’, and the distribution network of pipes delivers heat to each connected building in the community as if each building were a room in a house. You are in control of your individual home’s heating, just like you can control individual radiators in a house. There are many potential sources of heat for use in a low-carbon district heat network, but they can be broadly categorised into the two types below. Historically, heat networks have regularly been developed to use gas as a heat source, however, these types of networks are being phased out for zero-carbon alternatives.

  • Renewable sources of heat. This refers to heat that can be sourced from ‘untapped’ renewable sources in the natural world. For example, capturing latent heat from a waterway, such as a river, aquifer or lake.
  • Waste sources of heat. This refers to heat that can be captured from existing industrial processes that would otherwise be wasted. An example of this would be capturing and using heat caused as a by-product of incinerating rubbish.

There are still a number of ways a network like this could work, but generally, a ‘heat exchanger’ captures heat from near the source and transfers this heat into the insulated pipes around the network. In the example of capturing heat from a waterway, water would be extracted to the nearby energy plant where the heat would be transferred to the network. The water would then be returned to the waterway, at a slightly cooler temperature. The water only interacts with the network at the heat exchanger, so there is no risk of water becoming polluted, or vice versa.

Once the heat is within the network, it is distributed from the energy plant to individual buildings via the network of insulated pipes. This can include domestic, commercial, and public buildings. District heat networks are often more reliable than traditional heating systems because the network is maintained and managed centrally.  

What could an energy centre look like?

These are examples of designs for energy centres of different sizes.

Community concerns

Developing a heat network sounds like a lot of disruption, how will this impact me/the community?

We are currently within the first phase of the heat network development process. This involves a desk-based feasibility study of a heat network within the village and having an open dialogue with the community. If a heat network is found to be a viable option locally, any further work will be developed collaboratively with the community in a transparent way. We are working for you, so the scheme will only progress if you are on side. 

If a heat network were to be developed in the village, some disruption would occur over a few weeks during the installation of the distribution pipe network. The specific types of disruption, and length of works, would depend on the type of network that would be installed, and would also likely include upgrades to the insulation of homes that would be connected to the network, where necessary. Our experienced teams would ensure that any disruption would be minimised with careful planning and continued open dialogue. It’s worth remembering that a few weeks of disruption would support decarbonised heating in the area for generations!

Who can join the heat network?

District heat networks are designed to provide heat to a variety of buildings, including residential homes, commercial establishments, and public buildings. Inclusion of diverse building types can improve the network’s efficiency and sustainability.

Connecting to the heat network is voluntary. If you choose not to connect, your current heating system will remain in place. However, participating in the heat network may offer long-term cost savings and environmental benefits.

Can building and running a heat network harm local ecosystem?

Carefully planned district heat networks should not cause damage to the local environment. The Environment Agency, and local authority ecology and environmental health departments must be consulted during the planning process to ensure that the development and operation of a heat network would not negatively impact wildlife. Any plans must satisfy the requirements of these regulatory bodies, otherwise permission will be refused. 

For example, in the case of a district heat network collecting heat from a waterway, such as a river, the abstraction point (where water is taken from the waterway) is designed as to not trap or harm any wildlife. The water itself passes through an advanced filtration system, and only interacts with the heat network at the ‘heat exchanger’ as to not be polluted (and to protect the network from pollutants). To further avoid any negative impacts on the waterway, there is a strict range of temperature that the water returning to the waterway must stay within. The temperatures and quality of water returned to the waterway must be monitored and the data submitted to the Environment Agency as a condition of license. If the water is being returned in a condition which breach the license, the Environment Agency can impose a fine or revoke the operating license. 

This sounds expensive… how much would this cost me/ the community?

District heat networks are competitive in terms of cost with individual heating of homes and can provide long term price stability for energy. However, the initial installation of a heat network- including all necessary infrastructure and insulated pipe network- does require a significant capital investment up front. 

To minimise this upfront cost, a range of funding options are available to install the heat network. For example, low interest finance and payback options which would involve users of the system paying a ‘service charge’ to pay for the cost of the system over a long period of time. Options will be considered as part of the phase 1 feasibility study, and costs of infrastructure and customer bills will form a key element of the recommendations.

Community Input

How can your input shape the future of heating in Littlebury? 

  • Your feedback is crucial to the success of the Littlebury Energy Project and CEF Feasibility Study. By participating in our community survey, you can directly influence the design and implementation of a sustainable heating solution that meets the needs of all residents. Join us in making Littlebury a greener, more affordable place to live!

What are the potential cost savings for your household with the new heating system? 

  • Curious about how much you could save on your energy bills with a new, community-led heating system? Our survey aims to gather data that will help us tailor the most cost-effective and efficient solution for Littlebury. Share your energy usage insights and see how we can work together to lower your expenses.

How can we ensure reliable and eco-friendly heating for every home in Littlebury? 

  • Wondering how the Littlebury Energy Project plans to provide consistent and environmentally friendly heating throughout the community? By taking part in our survey, you’ll help us address the unique needs and preferences of each household, ensuring that our proposed system is both reliable and sustainable. Your voice matters—help us create a better future for Littlebury!
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