COUNCILS are exploring the possibility of hooking up North Yorkshire’s county town to its own heating system involving cheaper, cleaner energy.

North Yorkshire County Council and Hambleton District Council are looking at whether Northallerton is suitable for a district heating scheme, which could see its hospital, library, leisure centre and other council buildings all served by a local source of heating. Once the system is established local homes could also be connected.

The two authorities have secured £33,500 from the Government’s Heat Networks Delivery Unit to undertake initial technical studies into the feasibility of such a scheme in the town.

District heating systems produce steam and hot or chilled water at a central energy centre. The steam or water is distributed through an insulated pipework network to individual buildings for heating, domestic hot water and air conditioning.

Buildings served by the system don’t need their own boilers or chillers.

The networks can provide affordable heating at potentially a third of the cost of conventional heating costs. They also reduce carbon, contribute to local energy resilience and sourcing and can provide jobs through the creation of a local energy sector.

The Government is promoting a move to heat networks as part of its decarbonisation strategy.

North Yorkshire County Councillor Andrew Lee, executive member for Open to Business, said: “We believe local communities and businesses should have access to affordable, efficient and environmentally friendly energy to help meet their needs and to encourage investment and sustainable growth.

“If this proves successful, it could be a trailblazer for other schemes within the county.”

Hambleton District Councillor Peter Wilkinson, portfolio holder for Economic Development and Finance, said: “Hambleton District Council has already taken significant strides towards reducing CO2 emissions in the district, with almost a 10 per cent reduction since 2005. However, we have higher levels of fuel poverty than other parts of the county and we are above the national average.”

Northallerton was chosen for the pilot study because of its concentration of public sector agencies, its compact urban area and the opportunity to connect to proposed new developments, such as the redevelopment of the former prison site.

The initial research, which is expected to take about nine months, will identify Northallerton’s energy needs and the appropriate heat network strategy for the town.

Matt O’Neill, assistant director of Growth, Planning and Trading Standards, at the county council, said a considerable amount of money can be saved with such local heating schemes, especially in space heating. He said one of the things the study should tell them was whether generating electricity locally through renewable energy or biomass boilers would be the best option.

“Where it makes the biggest impact is hospitals and leisure centres because they have constant requirements all day, every day. It’s a really interesting scheme,” he said.

“Economically there’s lots of jobs in this sector. It’s something we want to support locally. It’s quite a new area.”