November 2012: This month’s Dept. of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) oral questions in the House of Commons included the following response from Secretary of State Ed Davey to a question from Southwark MP Simon Hughes:
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T4.  Simon Hughes (Bermondsey and Old Southwark) (LD): Just over the bridge at the Elephant and Castle, a major regeneration scheme is under way. When the Liberal Democrats ran the council, we proposed that the scheme should have an energy centre whereby the community could generate its own energy as well as keep prices as low as possible. Will the Government commit to supporting such community initiatives, to make sure that we get the best deal in our communities, led by our communities?
Mr Davey: I could not agree more with my right hon. Friend, who has championed community energy for many years. As Secretary of State, I am determined that we promote even more ambitious polices. We will introduce a community energy strategy in the spring. We have already made a number of announcements to encourage community groups and democratic local authorities to support these types of schemes.
Proposals for the energy strategy for the Elephant and Castle regeneration plan have had a difficult time over the past few years (some details of which can be found here) with the original plans for a multi-utility service company (MUSCo) now abandoned. Outline planning permission has recently been submitted by developer Lend Lease to Southwark council for this major scheme – which comprises between 2,300 and 2,462 residential units, along with new retail, business, leisure and community uses -and includes a revised energy strategy.
A new energy centre with a CHP plant on the site of the existing Heygate boiler house is now proposed with a site-wide heat network connecting all apartments and commercial units. The GLA’s planning report to the Mayor on the project states (para 112 onwards) that Lend Lease had investigated the potential to link the site-wide heat network to the proposed SELCHP district heating network, in Bermondsey. However this was found to be “unlikely to be viable in the near term.” The regeneration scheme will take time to develop and the GLA report sets out that Lend Lease “is proposing the phased installation of combined heat and power (CHP) plant in line with the phasing of the development. This would begin with a 263 kWe gas fired CHP unit being switched on during 2019. This would then be followed by a 985 kWe gas fired CHP unit being switched on in 2021 as the lead heat source for the site heat network.”
An innovative approach being taken by Lend Lease in terms of using renewable energy, is to work with biogas suppliers and offset emissions onsite through the use of biomethane injected into the national gas grid. Lend Lease says it will use the industry-led Green Gas Certification Scheme (GGCS) which tracks biomethane (also called ‘green gas’) through the supply chain to provide certainty for those that buy it.
Biomethane-injection is supported by DECC through the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) who believe it to be a key technology in helping increasing the amount of renewable heat generation in the UK. Further information on biomethane can be found on the following Ofgem factsheet here. Lend Lease’s outline planning application to Southwark (submitted in August) can be accessed here and the Energy Strategy for the development here. A decision on the application is set to be made by the end of this year.