District Energy Network FAQs

Veolia sheffield heating pipes in the District Energy Network

Find the answers to your questions about Veolia's District Energy Network with our comprehensive FAQs.

What other towns and cities in the UK have a District Energy Network?

Southampton, Nottingham and Lerwick have extensive district energy networks. Other places such as Leicester and Manchester have sizeable community heating infrastructure.

What is the District Energy Network and how does it work in Sheffield?

District Energy provides buildings in Sheffield City centre and the surrounding areas with a low carbon energy source that is generated in a central location, converted to hot water and pumped through a network of underground pipes and delivered to a heat exchanger in buildings of all sizes and types.

In Sheffield, the energy required for the District Energy Network is recovered from burning the rubbish from the city that cannot be recycled .

Steam is generated from the incineration process and passed through a turbine to generate electricity for the National Grid and/or converted to hot water for the District Energy Network.

How big is the network and where does it reach to?

The District Energy Network in Sheffield is the largest and most successful in the UK. There are 43km of pipeline installed across the city centre reaching Netherthorpe, Western Bank, the Heart of the City, Moorfoot and Park Hill. The network map shows the extent of the network and highlights which areas are lucky enough to benefit from district energy.

What will happen to district energy customers if there isn’t enough waste to burn in future due to an increase in recycling or waste reduction?

Veolia is committed to meeting the energy needs of its customers over the long term. Even with a significant increase in waste recycling, there is more than sufficient waste available.

Why is district energy more environmentally friendly?

Not only do connected buildings contribute to making Sheffield a cleaner place, businesses also avoid the Climate Change Levy. When a connection to the district energy network is made a building no longer uses fossil fuel to provide heating so carbon emissions are being reduced.

Heat provided by the District Energy Network saves up to 21,000 tonnes of carbon emissions from being released into the atmosphere every year.

Does the price of District Energy go up faster than the other alternatives?

The price of District Energy is index linked to prices of alternative fuels for the duration of the supply contract. Therefore it can only change at the same rate as other fuels.

What if the Energy Recovery Facility (ERF) is closed down by the Environment Agency?

It would take a major breach of the ERF’s PPC Permit for this to happen and as Veolia have the reputation of being the best ERF operator in the UK this is highly unlikely. In the event that the ERF was shut down for any reason there is over 100% back up via gas and oil hot water boilers.

What if there is a breakdown at the ERF?

In the event that the ERF is shutdown for maintenance or repair then the gas and oil back up boilers are used to maintain the District Energy supply. A strict maintenance regime is in place at the ERF to minimise breakdowns.

Does the ERF meet the regulatory standards for emissions?

Yes. In fact the ERF has been designed to accommodate future changes in emissions standards.

What happens if recycling rates increase and there’s less fuel for the ERF?

If domestic recycling rates increase dramatically then there will be less domestic waste for the ERF but it will have a higher energy value which will partly compensate for the reduction. The input requirements of the ERF will then be made up by taking trade waste, which would otherwise go to landfill.

What’s the long term strategy for Energy Recovery in the UK and what is the Government’s view on it?

The Government’s view is that Energy Recovery forms one part of the solution for waste management in the UK and that it is up to Local Authorities to decide what the best waste management solution is for them. In Sheffield, Energy Recovery is seen as an important contributor towards Sheffield City Council’s waste management strategy.

Do I need to install a back up heat source?

Sheffield's District Energy Network has a good reputation for reliability. It has multiple fuel back up boilers installed on the network to ensure we can maintain our reliability record and keep your building warm.

There is no need for a building to have 100% back up using conventional heating equipment. Very few buildings connected to the District Energy Network have such back up and those that do usually already had the equipment installed before connecting to us. One of our selling points is space saving due to the fact that a heat exchanger requires less space than a boiler, thus releasing more lettable space.

Can I retrofit heat exchangers to a building with a boiler plant?

Yes and it is often a simple process although sometimes boilers need to be removed to make space available for the installation of the heat exchanger.

Are there grants available to support the costs of connecting to the District Energy Network?

From time to time, grant based initiatives are created by Central Government but they tend to have limited lives and restricted eligibility.

How does connection to the District Energy Network help me achieve BREEAM standards?

A CO2 emissions figure of  0.12 kg/kWh of CO2/kWh should help achieve BREEAM credits for 'Ene 1 - Reduction of energy use and carbon emissions', and 'Ene 4 - Low carbon design'.

What happens if Veolia are bought out?

In the unlikely event that Veolia is bought out then the ownership and operation of the District Energy Network would revert to Sheffield City Council.

How does connecting to the District Energy Network help me comply with Building Regulations?

The new Part L has a requirement that the building performance meets minimum criteria for the conservation of fuel and power. The calculation of building performance includes a factor that recognises the type of fuel used to heat the building. As District Energy has a CO2 emissions factor significantly lower than a gas fired heating system, it allows designers and developers greater scope in the design of the building at the same time as ensuring compliance.

Isn’t Energy Recovery harmful to the environment?

All ERF’s have to operate to strict environmental regulations. New legislation that came into force in December 2005 means that the new ERF in Sheffield operates to strict emission limits and operational parameters. The emission limits are equal to, or better than, the limits to which power stations operate.

Pollution prevention control systems installed allow the operators to monitor how well the facility is performing, and to ensure that emissions are kept below permitted limits. Operators are monitored by the Environment Agency and reports detailing the performance of each facility are available on a public register. You can also view our emissions performance on this website.

Energy Recovery with District Energy as part of an integrated waste management system helps to create the best practical environmental option for Sheffield.

Don’t the environmental issues surrounding Energy Recovery from waste outweigh the benefits of avoiding fossil fuel?

No, we would require a method to disposeof rubbish that cannot be recycled and Energy Recovery is preferred over the use of landfill because there is an opportunity to recover a valuable resource - energy. In Sheffield we are generating heat and electricity so the benefits are increased.

The key target for improving air quality in the city centre is a reduction in NOx levels. When the effect of the District Energy scheme is taken in to account in avoiding the need for heating boilers, there is a net reduction in NOx in the city centre.

Is it true that connections can only take place between May and the end of September when the pipeline can be shut down, causing logistical problems for construction?

Connections to the District Energy Network can be made at any time of the year and at any time of the day or night. The timing of new connections is set to meet the needs of the customer and done in such a way as to minimise any effect on existing customers.

Is it true that the payback period is very long with only marginal savings against gas?

The payback period will depend on the cost of the actual District Energy installation compared to the alternative that would have been installed and of course the differential in energy price. Our success rate in gaining new connections would indicate that acceptable paybacks are achievable.

Doesn’t an Energy Recovery Facility deter recycling?

It is evident from looking at other countries that utilise Energy Recovery Facilities as part of an integrated waste management system that they do not deter recycling. Switzerland incinerates 45% of its waste and recycles 42%. There is evidence to suggest that cheap landfill has more to do with low recycling rates than the availability of Energy Recovery facilities.

How much energy do you create through Energy Recovery?

The ERF can generate up to either 45MW of thermal energy for District Energy or 21MW of electrical energy for the National Grid.

Missing media item.
Find our all the answers about Sheffield's Energy recovery Facility with our comprehensive FAQs.