Shropshire Climate Action Partnership (SCAP) says the major regeneration project provides the perfect opportunity to revolutionise how buildings in the town centre are heated.
If the scheme is supported and funding can be obtained, it would see underground pipes installed to carry heat from renewable sources to buildings on the network, to allow them to move away from conventional gas heating.
John Ogle from SCAP, speaking at the first meeting of Shrewsbury Town Council’s new climate change committee, said government-funded studies were already being carried out in around 150 other towns and cities across the country to assess the potential for new heat networks to be installed.
He said: “Heat networks are not new, they go way back. An awful lot of public sector housing developments in the 50s and 60s had big central boilers, they are really useful to avoid fuel poverty and there was an economy in doing it that way in those days.
“They are coming back now because it’s a relatively more economic way of providing low-carbon heat rather than a completely de-centralised system.
“If you think about the middle of Shrewsbury, if we are are going to move away from gas boilers and all the rest of it, then if we did it in a de-centralised way we are going to finish up with a load of packaged air source heat pumps hanging off the backs of our buildings, which isn’t particularly economically attractive, isn’t visually attractive and isn’t technically a good solution either.
“So a heat network solves a lot of problems.”
A network would link low-carbon heat sources – such as heat pumps, waste heat from factories and water courses – to consumers, including commercial, public sector and residential properties, which would swap their old gas boilers for metered ‘heat exhangers’.
Over time, as new technologies develop, new sources could be plugged into the network and new consumer properties could be added.
Mr Ogle said: “Working with the Big Town Plan is key to this, because I see this as our intervention.
“If you are going to dig up the roads or build new buildings, let’s design all that to be heat network friendly. Let’s do it all at the same time.
“Currently the Big Town Plan has avoided using words like ‘climate change’ or ‘carbon’ or ’emissions’ – I think that’s wrong, frankly, in an era of climate change.
“Really, it was reading the Big Town Plan that triggered this whole idea.”
Town council leader Alan Mosley, who sits on the Big Town Plan board, said he would raise the idea at the group’s next meeting and invite Mr Ogle to speak.