Oxford City Council is investigating how buildings that use a lot of energy could share methods of generating electricity and heat with neighbours to reduce the city’s carbon footprint.
The £136,000 study, largely funded by the Government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change, is investigating the feasibility of installing a network of pipes under the city centre and Headington areas to do this.
It is hoped that businesses in the city centre will be able to connect to the network and heat their properties from the same high-efficiency boilers and CHP (Combined Heat and Power) plant – with renewable energy and waste heat potentially playing a role too.
The hope one day is to have a large network of heat pipes running under Oxford, potentially heating homes in some of the city’s housing estates by utilising excess heat from big heat users, such as local industry.
John Tanner, executive board Member for A Clean and Green Oxford, said: “Oxford City Council punches well above its weight and leads by example when it comes to tackling climate change, which is one of the biggest threats not just to the city through flooding but to the entire planet.
“We have ambitions to achieve even more, which is one of the reasons why we have teamed up with Oxfordshire’s other district councils to launch a set of proposals that will devolve more power to local people and unlock £6bn of funding.
“These devolution proposals will give the city council powers over transport, for the first time since 1974, enabling us to do a lot more to tackle climate change and air quality in the city.
“One simple example of this is that the heat pipe network will suddenly become significantly easier to achieve if we become the highways authority for the city because we could install the pipes under either the roads or pavements – both of which the County Council currently has responsibility for.”
The pipe network would not cut heat wastage and carbon emissions and also save residents and businesses about 20 per cent on their bills.
If successful, the scheme could become the single biggest contributor towards the city reducing its carbon emissions. Theoretically, it has the potential to cut Oxford’s total carbon emissions by around 20 per cent – or more if renewable energy technologies are deployed.
The city council’s Environmental Sustainability team, Low Carbon Oxford partners and specialist consultants are currently carrying out the ground-breaking study, which has mapped the heat consumption of 195 buildings around Oxford city centre, and more around Headington.
From this work looking at costs and benefits it has been found that there is strong opportunity in the city centre and Headington if high-use buildings and sites owned by the universities, hospitals and others businesses are included.
The findings will be shared with the public later this summer.
Recent work has included jointly introducing the Low Emission Zone to tackle air pollution in the city centre, upgrading cycle routes across the city, installing solar PV panels on City Council buildings, winning government funding to install electric vehicle charging points in residential areas, and converting part of its fleet to low emission and electric vehicles.