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Feasibility plan for New Zealand's first District Energy Scheme

10 April 2012 - As part of a consortium which included Swedish companies Bizcat and FVB, Aurecon undertook one of three studies, commissioned by Christchurch Agency for Energy (CAfE) in late 2011, to examine the feasibility of New Zealand's first District Energy Scheme (DES).

The proposed project would ultimately provide electrical power, space and water heating and cooling from centralised power and heat co-generation plant fuelled by various renewable sources. A network of pipes would transport hot and cold water from the plant into buildings around the city, enabling owners to dispense with their own plant and the associated building space.

The proposal is for the scheme to use renewable fuels and be capable of capturing waste energy from other sources. Similar schemes are already common in parts of Europe and can result in significant cost savings for building owners and their tenants.

Merv Altments, CEO of the Christchurch Agency for Energy was particularly pleased with the feasibility process and Aurecon’s involvement, commenting that, “Aurecon were pivotal in not only getting the feasibility study completed within a very short timeframe but also ensuring that the design concept developed was the right way to make a DES in Christchurch commercially viable.”

Simon Taylor, Technical Director Buildings for Aurecon said: “Working closely with Bizcat, whom we became aware of through our global networks, we were able to combine our local knowledge and expertise in building technologies and the local potential market with their know how in district energy systems and understanding of the value of DES technology. FVB was able to bring their expertise to evaluate the plant and equipment costs. The end result and the real key to the plan’s feasibility was the development of a phased strategy that enabled progressive capital investment to match as closely as possible the developing revenue stream and made it stack up financially.” 

Each of the three studies commissioned considered a specific aspect of the DES. The technical study, undertaken by this consortium, involved the development of a phased model to implement a scheme with options for expansion as the post-earthquake rebuild progresses. KPMG, who undertook the investment study, gave the project the commercial thumbs up based on that approach.

Bizcat, in collaboration with five Swedish municipal energy utilities, has developed a business model that pools their national municipal expertise in district heating and makes it available to international markets. Sweden has one of the most advanced and sustainable networks of district energy schemes in the world and is a world leader in district heating system know-how. District energy meets over half the country's heating needs.

“Following the sequence of earthquakes in Christchurch since 22 February 2011, around two thirds of the buildings within the city centre are set to be demolished. A sustainable rebuild of Christchurch is high on the list of priorities for the City Council and the city’s residents. An innovative DES goes to the core of meeting this challenge,” Simon added.