Zero Carbon Rugeley project reaches milestone as cooling towers demolished

A pioneering smart energy project in Rugeley involving Keele University has taken a major step forward with the demolition of the town's former cooling towers.

Last year, Keele University was chosen to help design a new zero carbon smart energy system for the Staffordshire town of Rugeley as part of a consortium led by ENGIE, a leading player in energy supply, services and regeneration sectors.

This weekend the project hit a huge milestone when the four cooling towers were demolished, paving the way for a mixed use development featuring thousands of low carbon homes and a low carbon school, to be built in their place as part of the project.

As part of the ENGIE-led consortium, Keele will contribute towards the design of a Smart Local Energy System (SLES) that will demonstrate how such a system can reduce carbon and energy costs for residents, whilst providing a catalyst for town regeneration and employment creation.

The Rugeley SLES is intended to bring benefits to both the town and the future residents of the proposed mixed-use development at the former Rugeley Power Station site. The SLES builds on research developed at Keele through projects such as the University’s Smart Energy Network Demonstrator*, the HyDeploy project and CUSP (Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity).

The SLES aims to present an innovative, replicable and scalable energy solution – with new energy business models, local energy marketplaces and inclusive design offering benefits to the surrounding community. The scheme is therefore hoped to help establish a standard for many similar UK places to transition to zero carbon. It is also a proposed Energy Innovation Zone, which will allow further new approaches to energy distribution to be trialled in the town.

SLES consortium members - which include Connected Places Catapult, West Midlands Combined Authority, utility company Cadent, technology companies (Opus One Solutions, Conigital) and not-for-profit organisations (Chase Community Solar, the Sustainable Housing Action Partnership, Regen and the New Vic Theatre) - bring a wide variety of specialisms to the project. These members are developing various aspects of the scheme, with ENGIE acting as project lead.

Professor Chris Fogwill, Director of Keele’s Institute for Sustainable Futures, said: “We are looking forward to working in collaboration with our local, national and international partners on this project. The SLES has the potential to significantly drive the UK forward towards a zero carbon future, and Keele University is ideally placed to support this landmark initiative.

“Our research into smart and sustainable energy is already leading the way, providing unique test beds for the development of new equipment, techniques and energy sources, all of which will inform the design of the new energy systems in Rugeley.

“Meanwhile, our award-winning partnership with the New Vic Borderlines - Community Animation and Social Innovation (CASIC) - is a nationally-acknowledged model of community engagement, and will help to ensure that the developments in Rugeley meet the needs of the local population, both now and in the future.”

Nicola Lovett, CEO of ENGIE UK, said: “We are delighted to be leading this project with such a diverse and progressive group of partners. Collaborations such as these are fundamental to our innovation strategy - using collective thinking to solve the UK’s biggest challenges.

“The project is perfectly aligned with our broader strategy of making the zero carbon transition a reality for UK places and businesses. It will add to the community benefits from the development of the former power station and create a blueprint for scalable, replicable, energy system retrofit solutions for a lower carbon UK.”

The consortium has contributed £1.5m to the demonstrator project, which will be boosted by a further £1.4m of match funding from Innovate UK.

The funding secured is part of the UK Government’s £21m Detailed Design of Smart Local Energy Systems’ programme, part of a wider Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund programme called Prospering from the Energy Revolution. It aims to create a pipeline of highly innovative, ambitious and investable local UK energy systems that will be ready to roll out across the country over the next decade. These energy systems will support the UK’s objective to limit global warming and the impacts of climate change.

Minister for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Kwasi Kwarteng, said: “Every corner of the UK has a part to play as we eliminate our contribution to climate change entirely by 2050.

“This innovative project in Rugeley will deliver energy savings and reduce carbon emissions – a win-win for communities and the environment.”

Rob Saunders, Challenge Director, Prospering from the Energy Revolution, UKRI, said: “This innovative project provides new approaches to delivering our net zero commitments by delivering cleaner, cheaper energy services while creating more prosperous and resilient communities. But as well as their benefits to consumers, this project, as part of the Clean Growth Industrial Strategy Grand Challenge, places UK industry at the forefront of the global shift to clean energy systems and economies.”

The Rugeley SLES project will run until 2021, with the aim being to commence implementation shortly afterwards as the development of the Rugeley Power Station site progresses.

ERDF and UK Government logos*The Smart Energy Network Demonstrator project (ref. 32R16P00706) is part-funded through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the England 2014 to 2020 European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) Growth Programme, and is available to ERDF eligible companies. The project is also receiving funds from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).