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New district energy network set for Manchester Energy Partnership Limited (MEPL)

The Octagon site will accommodate the generation hub of the Octagon Project Energy Network (OPEN), a scheme designed to enable thousands of Manchester residents, businesses and public sector organisations access to low carbon energy, in this diverse area of the city.

Centered around combined heat and power generation (CHP), fuelled by clean natural gas, the energy centre will generate electricity which will be sold to MEPL’s customers utilising their heat and power infrastructure.

The hot water produced from cooling the generator plant will be distributed, via a system of insulated underground pipes, to approximately four square kilometers of the city, as part of a district heat network, providing local consumers access to less price-volatile, locally produced and sustainable sources of heat.

Richard Everton, chairman of MEPL, said “Projects such as the OPEN will revolutionise the way in which consumers access energy sources, generating and distributing it locally to achieve maximum efficiency with minimum contribution to carbon emissions. The involvement of ENWCML also illustrates its commitment to promote community energy schemes, which more effectively balance electricity demand with supply at a local level.”

Peter Emery, chief executive for Electricity North West, said “This is undoubtedly a major transition for the way that energy is produced and supplied in the UK and, as the region’s network provider, we are extremely proud to be a partner in a project which is at the forefront of change. Reducing carbon emissions, energy costs and making a positive contribution to fight fuel poverty, within a localised, mixed energy framework, brings significant benefits to the whole community. These benefits are only made possible by projects like the Octagon Project Energy Network, which we’re helping to make a reality. It also seems wholly fitting for Electricity North West to support the regeneration of our predecessor Norweb’s headquarters, maintaining the sites tradition whilst transforming its use to these innovative and pioneering methods of energy generation and distribution in the future.”

The OPEN is part of the Octagon Project, a £40m regeneration scheme including Octagon House, which was more recently occupied by United Utilities and once employed more than 600 people but has remained vacant for the past five years.

The redevelopment of the iconic 100,000sq ft. building, which already has its first tenant, will not only assist with the economic rejuvenation of this strategically important area of the city, but also contribute to Manchester City Council’s carbon reduction targets and support the aim of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority to encourage investment in district heating networks throughout the region.

Backed by Manchester City Council since its early planning stage, the scheme is capable of supplying major consumers, such as the Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, the NHS Blood and Transplant Unit, several large student accommodation blocks, and most importantly, 1,500 homes in the Plymouth Grove Village estate, where incidences of fuel poverty still remain. 

Executive Manchester City Councillor for the environment, Cllr Angeliki Stogia said “Manchester is always looking to be innovative and supportive of projects that bring new technology to the city, especially when they offer significant commercial, carbon reduction and social benefits to its communities. The Octagon Project is both imaginative and innovative and I am pleased that those behind it have been able to bring it to this stage.”

The project has been further boosted by significant financial support from the Government’s Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy, Heat Network Development Unit, which is financing the commercial and technical feasibility study for the scheme, which is also set to attract financial investment from the Greater Manchester Low Carbon Fund.

The techno-economic feasibility, which is already under way is being completed by Vital Energi, in combination with MEPL, who are currently undertaking a comprehensive stakeholder engagement process.

The lease of the entire ground floor of Octagon House has already been taken for the new Central Manchester NHS Renal Dialysis Unit. This offers a purpose-designed, spacious and modern environment for dialysis patients, capable of treating up to 40 patients each day, with easy access, dedicated car parking and ambulance drop-off.