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Bristol City Council - developing local energy and heat network projects

Carbon Trust provided bespoke strategic support to Bristol City Council in developing and implementing its local energy and heat network projects.  Our independent, expert advice helped Bristol to reduce transaction costs and engage effectively with the market.

Low carbon Bristol

Bristol City Council is a unitary authority responsible for all local government functions in England’s sixth largest city. The area has a population of over 430,000, contributing to significant carbon emissions.

To achieve the city’s low carbon ambitions the council has been developing local energy and heat networks. These can help to reduce emissions and cut energy costs. These also has the benefit of providing a secure local energy supply, spurring economic development and addressing issues with fuel poverty. It gives the council an on-going revenue stream, reduces risk from energy shortages and price volatility, and helps reduce the carbon footprint of both the city and the country as a whole.

Low carbon ambition

Bristol City Council has committed to becoming a low carbon city and home for green industries. Progress towards this ambition was recognised in June 2013 when Bristol was named as European Green Capital 2015. Bristol City Council managed to reduce its own carbon footprint by 28% between 2003/04 and 2011/12. The Council also has a wider goal of reducing emissions from the city as a whole by 40% by 2020 compared to a 2005 baseline.

Currently several district heating schemes are being developed across the city. These schemes are intended to deliver a number of benefits to the city, including carbon reduction, reduced energy costs and greater energy security, as well as paving the way for future development.

The city received funding from the European Investment Bank’s European Local Energy Assistance (ELENA) programme to help mobilise up to £140m of investment. Part of this investment is to be spent on the development of district heating networks, built around areas with several high-energy users and where there is the potential to heat multiple buildings from a single, efficient source.

How did Carbon Trust help?

Bristol City Council asked the Carbon Trust for bespoke strategic support in developing and implementing its local energy and heat network projects. This support has ranged from determining whether a project is viable, through to convening stakeholders and procurement support. This independent, expert advice and assistance has helped Bristol to reduce transaction costs and engage effectively with the market.

The Carbon Trust conducted a review of Bristol’s planning policy and advised on how this policy could support the development of district heating in Bristol. A series of potential improvements were identified, including how to protect potentially critical pipe routes and energy centre locations.

Support was provided on a number of schemes to help assess whether they would be technically and financially viable. This involved assisting Bristol in procuring feasibility studies and energy master planning, as well as evaluating and providing quality assurance of resulting studies to make sure they achieved objectives and could be used to further develop projects.

The Carbon Trust has also run workshops to help engage senior stakeholders from major local heat users that would benefit from the scheme. These workshops were used to enable those stakeholders to understand the potential benefits of projects and the practical implications of connecting to a district heating scheme. This helped the council to gain a senior-level understanding of the needs of other organisations involved in the project development and delivery, allowing for the formation of a constructive relationship between the key decision-makers from each organisation.

Carbon Trust supported with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Bristol City Council, the University of Bristol and Bristol Royal Infirmary which was key to the progression of the heat network programme. Carbon Trust also helped with some of the customer negotiation to help secure network connections.


  • Complex and diverse stakeholder landscape
  • High upfront capital associated with district heat infrastructure
  • Resistance to change
  • Hassle factor / disruption involved in the installation both at street and house level
  • Competing against low price of gas
  • Aligning the timings of the network and new developments that could connect can be very tricky


  • Bristol City Council have developed Energy Service Bristol as the vehicle to deliver the projects
  • High upfront capital associated with district heat infrastructure
  • Energy Service Bristol are building two networks, the Temple & Redcliff network focusing around the Temple Quarter Innovation District, and the City Centre Phase 1 network, which will serve the University and social housing
  • Key outcomes include the benefits of the heat networks themselves – lower costs, reduced carbon emissions and supporting economic growth ambitions

Key facts

  • The Rowan Heat Network became operational in 2016 and connects five social housing blocks in the south of Bristol to a 360kW biomass boiler, supplying over 300 flats with low carbon heat
  • The first part of the Temple & Redcliffe network is operational with further sections at the detailed design stage. The energy centre comprises a 1MW biomass boiler and 3.6MW of heat from gas boilers supplying over 700 flats in the Redcliffe area
  • The Temple & Redcliffe Enterprise Zone heat network will reduce carbon emissions by around 1,300 tonnes per year
  • The City Centre Phase 1 network is in design stage
With energy prices rising sharply over the past few years and general strain on public finances, cutting bills and fuel poverty are two pretty major concerns for us at the moment. Decentralised energy schemes are a big part of our commitment to investing in making Bristol the most sustainable city in the UK with a high quality of life.

Paul Barker, Energy Management Officer, Bristol City Council

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