Repowering Communities case study: District heating in Sheffield and Aberdeen


Sheffield has the largest UK district heating scheme. It was established in 1988 and uses heat and electricity from the Sheffield Incinerator. This incinerates 225,000 tonnes of waste to produce up to 60Mw of thermal energy and up to 19Mw electrical energy.

There are 44km of underground pipes – a 32km pipeline and a 12km pipeline – delivering heat and hot water to over 140 offices, public buildings, hotels and leisure facilities, and to 2,800 dwellings. Most major buildings in the centre of Sheffield are connected.

Some 120,000MW hours of heat are delivered annually through a connected capacity of over 130Mw. The council states that this prevents on average over 21,000 tonnes of CO2 from being released, and also lowers low nitrogen oxide emissions. Three peaking boiler stations provide back up.

Sheffield council encourages connection through the planning system. All significant developments (new buildings or conversions of five or more dwellings – including apartments – or more than 500m2 gross internal floor space) are required to provide a minimum of 10% of their predicted energy needs from decentralised and renewable or low carbon energy, and to reduce the developments overall predicted carbon dioxide emissions by 20%.

Local environmental NGOs oppose the scheme because of the incinerator. In 2001 Greenpeace staged a protest against the incinerator, declaring it the worst incinerator in England. However, in 2006 a new incinerator was commissioned to meet the Waste Incineration Directive. Sheffield now sends only 15% of its waste to landfill (the second lowest level in the UK).

Sheffield University is involved in the scheme and is strongly supportive, through the Sheffield University Waste Incineration Centre.


Three successful gas CHP district heating schemes are now operating in Aberdeen, delivered by council-backed, not-for-profit company Aberdeen Heat & Power Ltd. The three schemes consist of:

  • Stockethill. This covers flats and sheltered housing. The council gives the following figures:

… prior to the installation, those in sheltered blocks were paying up to £7.80 per week for their heating and water, and [others] up to £15. In addition, each householder used an average of 2000kWh of electricity per year, at a cost of £181. Immediately following the introduction of CHP, tenants began to pay a flat rate of around £4.75 per week for 48 weeks per year for heat and water. Those choosing to buy their electricity from Aberdeen Heat and Power paid approximately £159 per year. This represented a total fuel cost of £387 per year.

  • Hazlehead. This cost £1.6 to install. The council spent more than £700,000 from the city’s Housing Capital Programme. There was also a £600,000 grant from the Community Energy programme – a two-year UK government project launched in 2002. A new heat network linked more than 200 homes, plus a school swimming pool.
  • Seaton. This cost £3.38 million, covering six multi-storey blocks (three of them sheltered housing), around 500 homes. The Council spent £1.86 million from its Housing Capital Programme. A further £1.3 million was secured from the Community Energy programme.

The council says that:

… buildings connected to the schemes have seen emissions reduced by approximately 56%”.

Tags: , ,  

1 Comment

  1. Alessandro De Mida

    Just curious,
    how much expensive if a widespread district heating network (obviously,besides the thermal plant itslef) for a, say, 100,000 inhabitants city ?

    What happens in the summer or hot months, why both Aberdeen and Sheffield DH are operated only for 2 thousands full th power hours per year ?

    What about the feasibility of a district *cooling* system in the hotter periods, using again that same hot water in DH network ?


Leave a comment

(all comments are subject to moderation)

Comments are closed.