Heat from the Street Lives!

So there’s a lot happened in the last fifteen months……

Firstly we raised £25,000 from Local Energy Scotland’s Phase One Local Energy Challenge Fund (LECF) to put together a bid for our project to install solar PV on the roofs of the Vennel flats and use this power to pump heat from wastewater flowing beneath the Linlithgow streets.

By a miraculous effort, led by the indefatigable Neil Barnes, and with a superb team, we submitted our comprehensive application for £1.974m in second phase LECF grant and loan funding with two minutes to spare before the 16.00hrs deadline last Friday 12th February.


We’ll be posting the entire bid document in due course once we’ve updated this site, but in the meantime here’s the ‘Project Details’ section by way of an appetiser.

Project Description

Linlithgow Natural Grid’s (LNG) ‘Heat from the Street’ (HftS) project aims to install the first node in an innovative and expandable Linlithgow Heat Network.

A new Energy Centre will be installed, utilising recovered heat from sewer wastewater and powered by solar electricity, with underground district heating links initially connecting six nationally prestigious historic community buildings in the centre of Linlithgow, including St Michael’s Church, Burgh Halls and Linlithgow Palace (birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots).

Inspired by the ‘energy saving’ business model James Watt applied to users of his more efficient steam engines, and by the Danish approach to investment in energy savings and low carbon technologies, Heat from the Street is likely to be the first project in Scotland, combining heat recovery and solar electricity to deliver community benefit to a small, historic town.

The unique economic model to be implemented is based on investment, both in finance capital and potentially in the use of public assets, to deliver shared savings in natural gas and electricity use, with the renewable heat generation to benefit from the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).

A key feature of this project will be the creation of a new Community Energy Dividend targeted primarily at vulnerable residents in fuel poverty residing in the Vennel apartment blocks adjacent to the energy centre. Solar PV panels will be installed on the Vennel flat-surfaced roofs to power the nearby Energy Centre, with year round top-up supplies from the grid.

As part of that connectivity, Vennel residents will benefit from a fund for energy-saving measures, once the district heating scheme is operational. Options being considered include grants and low interest loans for draft proofing, glazing upgrades, and insulation measures that would not otherwise be affordable for residents.

The energy centre will house a sewer wastewater heat recovery system, combined with heat exchanger and water-based heat pumps to raise flow temperatures to desired levels for buildings connected to the district heating network.

The building owners – St Michael’s Church (of Scotland), Historic Environment Scotland (HES) and West Lothian Council (WLC) – will be founder members of a new bespoke LNG legal entity, akin to a new community-led energy services cooperative, which will develop further community energy projects over time through reinvestment of energy savings and expansion of the heat and power network. This is consistent with LNG’s core objective of energy independence for the town.

The ‘shared savings’ partnership model allows members connected to the heat network to reduce their per kWh costs by at least 10%, and receive an end of year cash dividend or saving, depending on their actual level of consumption. This incentivises ongoing improvements in energy efficiency. The integration of renewable electricity from the solar PV installation means that the effective cost of delivered heat can be fixed for 20 years.

In a traditional ESCO, profit from the sale of heat to end users would be retained by the heat supplier, whereas in this model all income will be reinvested in the heat infrastructure, used to provide a Community Energy Dividend, or returned to the users as energy cost savings.

If successful, there is scope for future expansion of the network to supply additional users and connect new heat sources. ‘Phase 3’ of the heat network aims to source heat from Linlithgow Loch water, and discussions are well underway with the above key partners and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology on this subject.

Last but not least, the LNG Heat from the Street Partnership propose to include an information hub for a range of bespoke community education activities, enhancing people’s understanding of the heat network, and its links to local cultural history.

This project will help establish a new renewable resource that is widely distributed throughout Scotland, but particularly in urban areas: recovered heat from wastewater. Accessing this resource and creating a viable economic model for its extraction, distribution and use requires collaboration between a range of local and national stakeholders. It can also be optimized by leveraging another widely available renewable resource in the form of solar PV.

Above all the development of new wastewater heat projects needs local community support for the new infrastructure required. The Linlithgow Heat from the Street project will provide the template for that model, by bringing together the required partners, integrating efficiently with the local electricity grid, and maximising the local consumption of locally produced renewable heat and electricity.

Project Objectives

  1. To create a new renewable heat energy centre and district heating network for 6 historic buildings in Linlithgow.
  2. To power the energy centre using new Solar PV panels installed on the adjacent Vennel blocks flat roofs.
  3. To create a new and unique cooperative membership LNG partnership focussing initially on the Heat from the Street project.
  4. Create energy savings for the 3 partner client recipients of heat.
  5. Create and deploy a new community energy-saving dividend to benefit local Vennel residents in fuel poverty.
  6. To reduce greenhouse gas emissions to support West Lothian’s Climate Change Strategy.
  7. To provide local job and training opportunities in project management, construction, energy and renewables management, engineering and administration.
  8. To provide educational, social and cultural opportunities for members of the community in the historical context of Linlithgow through awareness-raising activities and permanent information hub for Heat from the Street.
  9. To create the core infrastructure of the Linlithgow heat network, with potential for future expansion with the introduction of lochwater heat in Phase 3.
  10. To mobilise existing public assets to maximise community benefit and resilience.





Two Small Steps Back – One Giant Step Forward

It doesn’t seem like three weeks since the last post, but time flies when you’re having fun. Mind you, it didn’t seem particularly funny when we heard in quick succession that two funding bids in which a great deal of work had been invested had been knocked back.

Firstly, we heard – after a six month gestation period – that we had not made the grade for a EU Horizon 2020 bid for €1.6m made back in May by our academic partners, Aberdeen University. Secondly, our recent bid for Local Energy Challenge Fund for the proposed Linlithgow Energy Corridor was turned down. But in both cases LNG was applauded for the high level of community involvement through Transition Linlithgow, and it was clear that with a couple of projects under our belt, we’ll be investment ready, whether through public funding or otherwise.

So two steps back.

Then we met West Lothian Council on the occasion of the meeting on 4th November of WLC’s Environment Policy & Scrutiny Committee. This committee is chaired by our local councillor Tom Conn, who takes a great interest not only in environmental policy but also in social issues like fuel poverty, which is a substantial and increasing problem throughout West Lothian, and even in relatively well off areas of West Lothian like Linlithgow there are pockets of fuel poverty.

LNG was first on the Committee’s Agenda and I cantered through our presentation and leaned forward  eagerly to answer questions. There weren’t any (which I was subsequently told was actually a good sign). What questions there were came after the submission by the responsible WLC official Craig McCorriston which immediately followed. This concluded with Craig’s recommendation that the Council should provide a non-binding letter of support for Linlithgow Natural Grid in principle, with participation by his team in LNG’s preliminary proof of concept proposals.

After one or two clarifications, there was a nod of the head from the Councillors and on to the next business……..

It cannot be overstated how important this WLC meeting was for the Linlithgow Natural Grid initiative. The whole purpose of the Natural Grid as a concept – and the reason for Smart Accelerator funding from EU sources administered by the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation – is to create a simple new framework for bringing together Community, Council and Commerce together to a common purpose. LNG aims to provide a simple ‘light touch’ legal and financial framework with a view to attaining energy independence for Linlithgow – and therefore the energy security which leads to a more resilient Linlithgow community.

So two steps back – and one giant step forward – sums up recent lowlights and highlights for Linlithgow Natural Grid

Where there’s Muck there’s Brass

Where’s there’s Muck there’s Brass
As Donald MacBrayne – of Scottish Water Horizons (the renewable energy arm of Scottish Water) showed Professor Colin Cunningham (Strathclyde University’s Zero Waste guru) and I around Linlithgow’s waste treatment plant by the River Avon at Linlithgow Bridge earlier this week, that Yorkshire phrase came irresistibly first to my olfactory senses (ie my nose) and then to my mind.

Donald is busy reducing Scottish Water’s energy costs by installing renewable energy wherever possible, and interestingly is now examining the possibility of extracting heat from the ‘grey’ water which passes under Linlithgow’s streets from our houses, where it begins its journey at around 17 degrees Celsius, and – once treated – is discharged at maybe 10 degrees Celsius into the River Avon. For Colin Cunningham and LNG, this also represents an opportunity to harvest heat from water using the same ‘water source’  heat pump technology we plan to use for the Linlithgow Loch.

The difference in this case is that the source of heat (and power) demand is not the Vennel flats, but is the Mill Road Industrial Estate, which also has acres of roofs over which we are casting covetous eyes as sites for solar PV energy generation.

Green Central Belt
While our Local Energy Challenge funding bid for the Linlithgow Energy Corridor project is under consideration, we have not been idle, and have been building the team, and I had a great meeting with Ankara Fuller, Robert MacGregor and Claire Frost of AECOM – the major engineering firm.

It was in fact AECOM’s imaginative North/South canal project ( WEIGHT-Water-and-power-superhighway-Rev-F (1) ) which I christened the Natural Grid a couple of years ago having become involved through a lifelong interest in canals. Living by a linear water feature such as this canal will (unlike an airport runway; motorway or high speed rail line next door) actually increase land values along the route and this gave rise to the idea that the increase in land rental value along the route could actually fund the resources necessary to create it.

So by applying this model to the Union Canal as an existing contour canal it should be possible to create genuinely sustainable and 100% affordable eco-development and regeneration of hundreds of acres of poisoned and semi-derelict landscape along the route of Union Canal as it winds its way from Falkirk to Fountainbridge in Edinburgh.

In this way it would be possible, instead of allowing developers to pave over perfectly good farmland in search of a land transaction profit, to apply a new and participative eco-development model to transform what became known as the Millennium Link to a Green Central Belt. We see Linlithgow as being central to such a Green Central Belt as the Union Canal transits West Lothian between the Avon and Almond Aqueducts.

But I digress from Muck and Brass.

A Linlithgow Energy Park?
AECOM are interested in bringing their expertise and professionalism to bear not only in the Linlithgow Energy Corridor project, but also to our plan to (literally) energise the Mill Road Industrial Estate. With a site next to the hydropower – and heat from water – potential of the River Avon this could become a Linlithgow Energy Park.


Linlithgow Energy Corridor

Plenty of progress in a hectic couple of weeks, and perhaps the most satisfying is that we managed to beat a very tight deadline on Friday 10th October to submit a funding application for the Linlithgow Energy Corridor.

Local Energy Challenge

We managed to submit our bid on Friday with four hours to spare for initial – Phase One (feasibility) funding – of our proposal to Local Energy Scotland’s £20m Local Energy Challenge. 

This Challenge was only announced in mid August and has a very aggressive time-scale. We will apparently be told by early in November whether or not we have been successful in obtaining just under £30k Phase One funding which will be used to work up a detailed proposal for a Phase Two to be implemented in the next financial year – 1st April 2015 to 31th March 2016.

The interesting point about this funding is that the minimum is £1m and the maximum as much as £6m. We take the view that most applicants will find it difficult to engage with the necessary public and private stakeholders to implement projects on this scale to such a tight time-table.

Linlithgow Energy Corridor

We have been working closely on this bid with the first-rate Community Energy Scotland and with CES’s Benny Talbot as the engine-room, and Felix Wight on the bridge to help us pilot our way, we reached what we think is an excellent bid concept, christened the Linlithgow Energy Corridor.

The concept is to link together and supply the two centres of energy demand at Low Port and the Cross/Vennel which Aberdeen University’s Dr Mohammed Imbabi identified and prioritised in our initial energy mapping and scoping exercise last year. These network hubs will be connected to a water source heat pump by the Vennel which will draw upon heat from the Linlithgow Loch.  Low Port will probably be the site for gas-fired Combined Heat & Power with gas-fired district heating and possible hot water storage in the vicinity of the Vennel car park

We aim for this Linlithgow Energy Corridor to be the initial spine of what will become a Linlithgow Heat Network, and rather than digging up the High Street, our hot water piping and power cables will be run and buried in a corridor running along the South side of the Linlithgow Peel.

The key stakeholders are West Lothian Council, who would benefit from reduced energy costs at the Low Port School, Low Port Centre and the Burgh Halls; St Michael’s Church, with a  cluster of heat demand in particular, and Historic Scotland. While Historic Scotland will also receive economic benefits from lower energy costs, their principal focus is the so far intractable problem of improving the water quality in the Linlithgow Loch for which they have the responsibility, but lack either the power or the resources to solve the problems of toxic blooms and de-oxygenation of the Loch.

It is pleasing to report that we have the complete support of Historic Scotland for our project, since they anticipate that interventions to improve water quality may also be engineered as part of the project. Early indications from key West Lothian Council staff are also very positive, while all three of our politically disparate Linlithgow councillors are enthusiastically supportive.

So fingers crossed for the next three weeks or so……

West Lothian Answers to West Lothian Questions

A remarkable few weeks since Inception of this blog.

Smart Accelerator

Firstly, and most importantly, the Smart Accelerator launch event took place on Thursday 25th September and so, after a period of Purdah, LNG is now free to tell the world that the Linlithgow Natural Grid initiative has – until the end of March 2015 – around £37k seed funding to help cover the start-up of what we aim to be a new kind of local community energy utility.

But we have not been idly waiting: we’ve hit the ground running (which in LNG’s human dynamo, Neil Barnes’ case includes a 10km run for charity!). We have two initial projects we aim to implement by way of ‘Proof of Concept’ of the smart and accelerated community-based energy development which LNG is being funded to demonstrate in Linlithgow.

Electricity – Vennel Solar

We aim to install arrays of solar panels on the two Vennel blocks of flats and – on the premise that it makes little sense for our community to sell to the Big Six for 5p/Kilowatt Hour what we then buy back for 15p/KwH – we aim for as much as possible of the energy produced to be supplied directly to residents and business occupants of the Vennel buildings. Brixton Energy shows what’s possible: we aim to adapt and simplify the Brixton model considerably.

Heat – Linlithgow Energy Corridor

The beauty about heat projects is that they enable energy savings to be made which are at the retail price of energy. So the higher that retail energy prices go the more £ consumers will save to spend elsewhere.

The Linlithgow Energy Corridor is the working title of a project to create an initial ‘spine’ of what will grow organically to become a Linlithgow Heat Network.

Our initial thoughts – based upon our initial study by Aberdeen University and subsequent research & discussion – are to install hot water and power connections between two major sources of heat/power demand at Low Port and by the Cross and onwards to source additional heat from the Linlithgow Loch. The key point is that rather than digging up Linlithgow High Street at vast cost and inconvenience, the Linlithgow Energy Corridor would run through soft ground adjacent to the Southern boundary of Linlithgow Peel

Our initial soundings with the two key stakeholders: West Lothian Council (who will benefit mightily from energy savings at Low Port and the Burgh Halls); and Historic Scotland (who will see both economic benefits and potential environmental benefits to Linlithgow Loch water quality) have been extremely positive.

So our next step is a major feasibility study, including wide community consultation. Watch this space.

West Lothian Questions
Secondly, as one or two of our readers may just have noticed, there’s also been a Referendum!

LNG’s position on this is completely neutral and objective. LNG is not interested in political independence: our aim is to achieve  Energy independence for Linlithgow. By drastically reducing the £6.5m currently bleeding out of Linlithgow every year  to sheikhs, oligarchs, the City of London and even Wall Street, we aim to enable Linlithgow to achieve energy security and resilience.

I’m pleased to report that all three of our local councillors are completely supportive of the Linlithgow Natural Grid initiative and will keenly observe our progress. Indeed, one of them serendipitously has a lifetime’s experience as a marine engineer to bring to bear. Not only that, but we have been informed – provisionally – that LNG will be allowed to make a presentation to the full Council before its meeting on 2nd December.

We believe that LNG’s Natural Grid energy policy approach will enable West Lothian to lead the field in addressing the challenges it faces, whether economic stringency; addressing fuel poverty and climate change or simply creating a sustainable West Lothian.

Maybe the reality is that we need neither Westminster nor Holyrood answers to Tam Dalyell’s famous West Lothian Question.

Perhaps West Lothian Questions require West Lothian Answers?


Linlithgow Natural Grid (affectionately known as ‘LNG’) first made its appearance on 29th April 2013 as an Unincorporated Association when the three founding members; myself, Chris Cook as Convener, Chris Gunstone, as Treasurer, and Neil Barnes as Secretary, all subscribed to the Founding Constitution with the following Aim.

“The Aim of Linlithgow Natural Grid is for Linlithgow to be independent in energy.”

Much has been achieved since LNG essentially branched from Transition Linlithgow and in posts to come we shall briefly look back over what LNG has been doing, and our plans for making Linlithgow independent in energy.

On 15th August 2014 the LNG egg hatched into a caterpillar; on that date Linlithgow Natural Grid Ltd was formally incorporated as a Scottish Company Limited by Guarantee Number SC484479, and during the next few months we aim for LNG to become the Proof of Concept of a new type of community energy utility.