We followed up this emailed reaction – a response to the recent post on air pollution in Birmingham which referred to three city projects:

A link given to Aston’s Intelligent Transport, Heating and Electrical Control Agent – ITHECA – led to this information:

Birmingham is leading the way with multiple district heating networks (DHN) powered by natural gas combined heat and power (CHP) engine systems. These networks provide heat and electricity to key buildings and areas across the City including Aston University, Birmingham New Street Station and Birmingham Council House amongst others. These district networks are currently being joined together to create a city centre wide network.

During operational hours, CHP systems are usually used for their electricity production and so a significant proportion of the heat produced is not utilised. Itheca addresses these inefficiencies which restrict the environmental and economic potential of existing localised energy systems, as well as the viability of potential new systems. Birmingham’s own DHN will be decarbonised by connecting the European Bioenergy Research Institute’s heat generation as a third party heat exporter.


The European Bioenergy Research Institute (EBRI): world-class bioenergy research and knowledge transfer

The EBRI generator, based on the Aston University campus, can be fuelled by biofuels – organic wastes such as sustainable bio-liquid fuels, food waste and sewage sludge – rather than fossil fuels. The improved system will also incorporate interoperable distributed energy technologies to enable the energy system to access some of the new revenue opportunities in the future energy system.

In times of surplus generation capacity the system will self-balance itself by charging electric vehicles (EVs), whilst in times of high demand the vehicle charge can contribute to the building demand. The project will see the instalment of the first bioenergy powered EV charging infrastructure in Birmingham’s city centre.

The Itheca project is also developing innovative control software to manage the distribution of energy throughout the DHN, optimising revenue generation and carbon savings, and helping National Grid to balance the electricity system through a new frequency response product.

This innovation will enable small-scale generators and sites with under-utilised generation assets to access a host of balancing market services, passing value to the site owner rather than back to less efficient centralised power generators.