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Vattenfall JV eyes European city-scale district heating in the Lothians

Midlothian Energy Limited – a 50/50 joint venture between Midlothian Council and Vattenfall Heat UK – has earmarked £100 million to deliver low-carbon energy projects to the Lothians over the next five years.

Midlothian Council and Vattenfall Heat UK – part of Swedish state-owned energy company Vattenfall AB – aim to deliver low-carbon heat to the equivalent of 170,000 homes across Midlothian, Edinburgh and East Lothian by 2050.

Its hoped that this will see district heating networks draw upon a range of heat sources and create a network similar in scale to those delivered by Vattenfall in major European cities such as Amsterdam over the last 25 years.

As such, their joint venture, Midlothian Energy Limited, has signed a contract to facilitate an initial heat network at a new town development at Shawfair – a new town six miles south of Edinburgh and a key feature of Midlothian Energy’s five-year business plan to supply low-carbon heat to over 30,000 households.

This network will harness waste heat captured at the FCC Environment-operated Millerhill recycling and energy recovery centre – a facility fueled by residual waste collected from residents and businesses in the area and diverting 155,000 tonnes of waste from landfill each year.

Construction of an initial district heating network – supplying some 3,000 homes, education and retail properties at Shawfair in the north of Midlothian Council area – is expected to begin this year and deliver heat to homes by 2024.

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Positive contribution

The heat network project – benefitting from up to £7.3m from the Scottish Government’s Low Carbon Infrastructure Transformation Project (LCITP) – is expected to save more than 2,500 tonnes of CO2 per year, the equivalent of taking 1,200 cars off the road.

Vattenfall modelling suggests heat networks in Midlothian could reduce emissions by up to 90% in comparison to individual gas boilers fitted in every home. At present, 86%  of Scottish households rely on fossil fuels to keep warm.

According to Eoghan Maguire, head of joint ventures at Vattenfall and director of Midlothian Energy, collaborations such as that between Midlothian Council and Vattenfall Heat UK are “crucial” to meeting Scotland’s target of reaching net zero by 2045.

“Midlothian Energy will provide a huge step forward on the road to reducing the use of fossil fuels in heating, and we expect up to 900 jobs to be created through the heat networks Vattenfall is proposing in Scotland,” he said.

“Vattenfall delivers heat to 1.9 million customers across Europe and has similar ambitions for the UK. In suitable urban and suburban areas, district heating can be deployed rapidly, at scale and at affordable cost to consumers. The UK simply cannot reach net zero without it.”

Midlothian Council’s cabinet member for environment, Councillor Dianne Alexander, added: “Midlothian Council is delighted that this innovative flagship low carbon project is reaching the delivery stage.

“The Council is looking forward to working with its long-term energy partner, Vattenfall, through Midlothian Energy Limited, and investing in a business plan that provides a conveyer of new projects to help tackle our ambitious net zero carbon targets.

“A key priority for Midlothian Energy is to contribute towards the challenge of reducing fuel poverty. During this current cost of living crisis, this project will provide a positive contribution to sheltering customers from market volatility and securing lower prices for heat for them.”

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