THE Government has been urged to do more to support local authorities in pursuing renewable energy schemes, following a council abandoning its green project to heat its leisure centres on financial grounds.

Hambleton District Council’s cabinet heard a £29,000 feasibility study into introducing ground source heat pumps its Civic Centre in Northallerton and swimming pools in Bedale, Northallerton, Stokesley and Thirsk, had concluded it would take at least 14 years for any of the properties to break even.

The authority approved the investigatory work last year after an initial assessment indicated the technology could generate “significant income” for the council as well as making savings on expenditure on gas and electric energy consumption.

The pump system involves pipes that are buried to extract heat from the ground, which can then be used to heat radiators, underfloor or warm air heating systems and hot water.

An officers’ report to the meeting stated key lessons from the included the importance of starting a project with identifying clear objectives and then considering the alternative options going forward.

It stated: “In hindsight, the [government’s] Renewable Heat Incentive scheme led the project, rather than first gaining a better understanding of our assets and options available on how the council can deliver improvements to the performance of these assets.”

The authority’s deputy leader Councillor Peter Wilkinson said the council had paid for the study as it was keen to cut costs, boost its income and pursue green energy schemes, but it had been found the financial rewards would be too far in the future.

He said: “It was right that we looked at this project and I think we went about it the right way. This money is not wasted because it involved a lot of work looking at the boiler rooms in our leisure centres. This work can be taken forward as a number of the boilers are of the age that will need significant investment and the reports that we received can be used to decide how to take that work forward.”

The meeting heard the council remained committed to introducing renewable energy projects and would be considering a green energy programme in September. The authority’s governance portfolio holder Councillor Isobel Sanderson urged the council to keep an open mind in the future “as Government policies may alter”.

Councillor Nigel Knapton: “I do think central government do have something to answer. If there were more incentives coming from them. If they want a decarbonised economy I don’t think it’s fair that the burden does fall on local authorities. There has to be a bit of give and take.”