Yesterday morning I visited the Southampton District Energy Scheme. It supplies not only heat (some of which comes from a geothermal source) but also cooling and electricity (through trigeneration combined heat & power). And the headline stats are impressive:

- over 40 customers

- 12 000 tonnes CO2 per year avoided

- reduced costs for clients

But what really interested me is how the scheme has evolved over the last 21 years from humble beginnings - just the Civic Centre to begin with (with geothermal only) and then spreading out across the city centre to other large users and adding CHP units as and when necessary.

There is a raft of evidence that this 'evolution, not revolution' approach for large distributed sustainability projects is the best way forward by a country mile, but yet again and again proposals come forward that try to solve all problems at once, but only if about 20 partners sign up and a huge wodge of public money is chucked in the pot. The evolutionary approach has made the Southampton scheme robust, effective and self financing - just like the famous energy scheme developed by Woking Council. Grandiose schemes which require a colossal injection of public funds more than often don't get off the drawing board and if they do, usually collapse under their own weight.

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