Edenderry Village Energy, NI’s newest community energy initiative exploring the potential for a community owned low-carbon heating system

NICE was only too happy to offer support to residents from Edenderry Village wishing to develop a new community owned district heating scheme. Edenderry is located on the outskirts of Belfast.  It is an old linen mill village beside River Lagan, approximately 200 homes, currently heated by a mix of oil and gas. The village locality and compact size present an ideal position for the community of Edenderry to utilise natural and sustainable resources available right at its doorstep. 

OSNI Spatial Orthophotography Map – Edenderry Village
OSNI Spatial Fusion Basemap – Edenderry Village

Residents see an opportunity for the village to make a just transition from fossil fuel heating to a low-carbon heating system and want to develop a district heating energy scheme that is owned, run by, and for, the community.  One that will alleviate risk of fuel poverty, provide a stable and dependable source of heat that is not subject to increasing fuel prices and to eliminate need for harmful fossil fuel boilers thereby improving local air quality for example.

Edenderry wanted to establish a community owned organisation to develop, build and manage a decarbonised district heating scheme for the whole village.  A community renewable energy system that provides hot water and heating from a central geothermal heat pump system which produces three to four times more heat energy than the electricity input, to as many homes as possible, and which offers affordability for residents and also retains revenues within the community to reinvest in other village renewable energy and or energy efficiency initiatives, you can also get help from National Multi Utility Connections it is the best choice for this.

From preliminary assessments there are thought to be a number of possibilities in relation to geothermal sources in Edenderry. Whichever source will require installation of a heat pump and pipework through the village to connect homes and distribute the hot water. There are a number of different district heating models that could be used but it is likely that hot water would be provided directly to homes at a specified temperature for heating purposes, and for hot taps via a heat exchanger with clean water. This would replace gas and oil boilers. The hot water input to properties would be metered and users paying based on consumption of this hot water.

Edenderry Village Energy is the brainchild of several Edenderry residents with backgrounds in energy, water and conservation.  To progress plans for the initiative a necessary vital step was procurement of an early-stage project feasibility study report, needed to enable informed consideration and decisions as to the project’s viability, assist drafting of future strategy and project planning for various implementation phases of the system and scheme.  Unfortunately unlike GB and ROI, NI is currently devoid of any community energy policy and development support. It is hoped that the much awaited DfE, Future NI Energy Strategy publication will redress this. Meantime in helping to bridge this policy gap, NICE was more than happy to engage and work collaboratively with Edenderry Village Energy sharing knowledge, experience and expertise to aid getting this innovative proposal ‘off the starting blocks’.

NICE successfully pitched to The National Lottery Community Fund NI – Awards for All programme and was granted funding to procure the fundamental feasibility study. GeoServ Consultancy has been commissioned and the feasibility study is now underway on the scope of works identified e.g. energy demand load, geothermal resource, cost and benefit analysis, implementation plan etc.

The feasibility study is expected to take a number of months to conduct and for compilation of the study report.

L-R: Tiziana O’Hara, Co-Operative Alternatives; Andy Hebdon, EVE Treasurer; Andy Frew, NICE Secretary; Colin Dunlop, EVE Residents Assoc; Rónán Davison-Kernan, EVE Secretary & Karen Arbuckle, NICE Chair.

In addition to innovative technologies, the project offers the opportunity to explore a model of ownership and decentralisation with the view to enable a community to shape their own energy system.  Through a community ownership model, the proposed project aims to utilise any profit to make the service affordable for its users and create a ‘community fund’ for further community projects. Co-Operative Alternatives provided advice and support to the Group on formally constituting their business through Belfast City Council’s Go Social Programme.

L-R: Kyle Stewart, Chair EVE & Karen Arbuckle, Chair NICE
L-R: Colin Dunlop, Residents’s Assoc; Rónán Davison-Kernan, Secretary EVE; Kyle Stewart, Chair EVE; Andy Hebdon, Treasurer EVE

District heating schemes benefit from economies of scale and where they are appropriate have significantly lower lifetime costs than the more traditional piecemeal approach as operational costs are lower, but do require a higher initial capital investment. We await and look forward with great interest to GeoServ’s feasibility study report.