Aston helps one of the UK’s largest energy companies


Cofely District Energy, Cenex and Open Energi have recently entered into a £1.1m partnership with the European Bioenergy Research Institute (EBRI) at Aston University to reduce the UK’s reliance on fossil fuels by optimising energy efficiency in district heating networks which is set to get under way in Birmingham.

Cofely, the lead partner of the project, is one of the UK’s largest energy companies, providing district energy solutions to its users in public, commercial, industrial and residential sectors with over 25 years of experience. EBRI acts as a focus for pan-European activities on scientific and technological aspects of biomass  conversion and utilisation of products for renewable power, heat, transport fuels, hydrogen and chemicals.

Multiple district heating networks (DHN) powered by natural gas combined heat and power (CHP) engine systems, provide heat and electricity to key buildings and areas across the City, including Aston University, the NIA, Birmingham New Street Station, the library of Birmingham and Birmingham Council House. This project aims to combine these district networks in order to create a city centre wide network.

This collaboration with Aston University will also demonstrate how new technologies can unlock the potential for more efficient local energy generation. Normally, CHP systems are not used for heating purposes but for electricity, so this project enables heat to be utilised where it wouldn’t be usually. In addition to this, the improved system to be demonstrated at EBRI will have intelligent control technologies to enable surplus power to be stored, as well as used, in the batteries of electric vehicles (EVs) and will see an instalment of the first bioenergy powered electric vehicle charging station in Birmingham’s city centre.

This unique project is funded by the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, which will support the collaboration.  This partnership aims to improve the efficiency, economic viability and resilience of localised energy systems (LES) through quality research and development, which will also encourage Cofely to apply these innovations to their existing generation assets in the UK and abroad.     

 This proposed development also includes social and environmental benefits, in the form of greater localised energy provision with less reliance on ageing infrastructure, job creation opportunities a significant reduction in the use of fossil fuels, and the ability to utilise organic waste produced locally to provide low carbon energy. 

We will develop techniques and learn lessons that can be applied to our other district energy schemes in the UK

Dr Jim Scott from EBRI at Aston University said:"The initiative will enable low carbon renewable heat to be exported throughout the city for the first time. The European Bioenergy Research Institute is excited to have a leading role in this project bringing our technologies into the energy system of the city. Our bioenergy technology also enables the Network to contribute to the government’s target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020.”

Paul Rawson of Cofely said "In working with the EBRI, I have no doubt that we will develop techniques and learn lessons that can be applied to our other district energy schemes in the UK and beyond.”

To find out more about how your business can benefit from working with Aston University, please email or call 0121 204 4242.