25 Jan 2011

Council plans to heat pool from crematorium

A council’s proposal to heat a new swimming pool using waste energy from a crematorium has landed them in hot water, writes Science Correspondent Tom Clarke

Body being transported to crematorium

Conservative-run Redditch borough council are renovating a leisure complex and want to use heat from the nearby crematorium to make the new facility cheaper to run and reduce carbon emissions.

The Council told Channel 4 News the scheme would reduce the demand for mains natural gas for the new leisure centre by 42 per cent each year. This would equate to savings of £14,560 per year that could be then spent on other key services, they said.

But the local branch of public sector union Unison has called the proposals from the council “sick”.

“It goes to show yet again that the Conservatives know the price of everything and the value of nothing,” said spokesman Roger McKenzie.

“Unfortunately, local authorities are increasingly pursuing desperate policies in a reaction to the unprecedented spending cuts imposed from Whitehall.”

The neighbouring crematorium burns natural gas and operates at a temperature of 800 degrees centigrade. New EU rules mean that the waste fumes have to be cooled to a temperature of 150 degrees and filtered before going into the atmosphere. While fitting the new technology to the crematorium the council is proposing to capture the energy wasted and heat steam to supply to the Abbey Leisure Centre next door.

“When plans to renovate the leisure centre and the crematorium got under way, it just got us thinking about using the energy wasted by the crematorium,” said Andrew Marklew from Redditch Borough Council.

Marklew admits they have had some strong opposition scheme, but that a number of people have contacted the council in support of the proposal. “A lot of the reaction has been quite positive.” he said.

‘A lot of the reaction has been quite positive’ – Andrew Marklew, Redditch Borough Council.

Nor is the Redditch proposal the first to recoup some warmth from bereavement.

For a few years, mourners in the chapel at the Oakley Wood Crematorium near Leamington Spa have been warmed by the waste heat from the crematorium’s burners. A facility in Hastings and another near Manchester also use waste heat to warm their crematorium buildings.

The scheme in Redditch would be the first to use heat to warm a separate facility altogether. In other parts of Europe however, crematoria are required to find local heat-sharing opportunities as part of the planning process.

Environmental legislation encourages councils and big businesses to use heat more efficiently. Efforts to do so should be encouraged said Graham Meeks, director of the Combined Heat and Power Association.

“What this shows is a local authority using its ingenuity and enterprise to be as efficient with resources as possible.” He acknowledged however, the thought of using heat from cremation to heat a swimming pool and leisure complex might not be welcomed by everyone.

“There has to be a trade off between some aspects of an efficiency drive and other sensitivities,” he said.

Redditch Borough Council are planning to consult with the public, funeral directors and faith groups this week before councillors decide the fate of the scheme next month.