AN East Lancashire local authority is researching whether a special 'heat network' to warm 13 of its buildings could cut energy costs and carbon emissions.

Blackburn with Darwen Council will use a £96,880 grant from the government to assess the feasibility of the proposal.

The plan is revealed in a report by borough growth boss Cllr Quesir Mahmood.

It says: "The council applied for and has been awarded a grant by the Heat Networks Delivery Unit (HNDU) towards the cost of undertaking heat zoning and a techno-economic feasibility study of heat networks in Blackburn and Darwen.

"The council declared a climate emergency in 2019 and pledged to work towards becoming carbon neutral by 2030.

"Included within the supporting Climate Emergency Action Plan is an objective to cut emissions from the heat supply to council buildings.

"A Heat Decarbonisation Plan prepared in 2022/23 for 13 of the council’s highest energy consuming buildings concluded that heat networks would be more efficient than individual heat pumps in each building.

"All but two of the buildings are located in either Blackburn or Darwen town centre.

"The conclusion reinforced a heat mapping and master-planning study undertaken in 2019 that identified potential networks in the borough but which wasn’t followed up due to lack of resource and then the outbreak of Covid-19.

"Heat networks (also known as district heating) supply heat from a central source to consumers, via a network of underground pipes carrying hot water.

"Heat networks can cover a large area or a small cluster of buildings.

"They can be expanded over time and heat ‘off-takers’ other than council can connect to them.

"Further detailed work is needed to test and check the initial findings and to undertake a technical and economic analysis that provides the council with sufficient information to determine whether to invest in progressing the scheme and to identify potential strategic heat network zones and determine potential core heat networks in the borough which offer the lowest cost solution to consumers.

The HNDU offers financial assistance to undertake heat network viability assessment.

"An application for assistance was submitted in October 2023.

"The council received an award on January 22 2024 of £67,000 for zoning and feasibility and £29,880 for project management

"Acceptance of the grant does not oblige the council to deliver a heat network."