Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Eco-Friendly Boiler Proves Too Costly for Sport Centre

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Eco-Friendly Boiler Proves Too Costly for Sport Centre

Article excerpt

Byline: Adam Luke Reporter

COUNCIL bosses have switched off an environmentally friendly boiler - because of high fuel costs.

Biomass boilers are designed to use sustainable woodchips rather than fossil fuels, and since 2011 the Government has offered Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) grants in return for energy being produced in a sustainable way.

Architects have also catered for biomass in modern building plans due to pressure to hit sustainable energy targets by Westminster.

Hexham's Wentworth Leisure Centre included a biomass boiler when it was built in 2008, but it was switched off last year.

A spokesman for the authority said: "While the council is committed to using renewable and effi-cient energy wherever possible, the biomass boiler was switched off at the centre at the beginning of September 2014 purely due to fuel cost and the comparison with gas.

"This boiler was installed before the recent central government RHI so does not qualify for any grant funding. We will continue to monitor costs to ensure we are using the most efficient and effective fuel systems."

Architect Mark Siddall, who runs LEAP (Low-Energy Architectural Practice) in the North East, which constructs buildings to the Passivhaus standard - which reduces energy demand by 90% - said he was not surprised by the switchoff.

He said: "That these biomass boilers are being ignored is no surprise. It is only perverse incentives from the Government that made people install them in the first place as they are not necessarily better for the environment at all.

"The Government's theory is they chop down a tree and use the woodchips for fuel, planting another tree which over time will absorb more carbon than the one that was burned produced. This may be right, but during the 25 to 30 years that that tree takes to grow, all that carbon from the burnt tree is in the atmosphere and has global warming potential.

"Furthermore, biomass fuels themselves are more expensive than gas and if the school or leisure centre is not energy-efficient in the first place then the cost will only increase further, with maintenance on top of that. …

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