Anyone heard anything lately about Bristol Heat Networks Ltd, the council company with no business plan and no recorded assets that’s supposed to be managing all of the city’s heat network assets?
The company is supposed to be handed over to Swedish multinational Vattenfall for free as a crucial part of the City Leap deal that will see the private sector decarbonising the city for fat undisclosed fees. A cabinet report in April assured us that “this asset transfer will be sought via a separate cabinet report currently anticipated to be coming forward in June 2022.”
So where is it? What’s the delay? Because without this asset transfer the whole City Leap project, which has cost us around £7.3m in procurement fees so far, goes tits-up. Are those “gaps and financial and operational risks” in relation to Bristol Heat Networks that the council’s Bristol Holding Company execs warned us about back in February still an issue?
Indeed, some people tell us that the city’s heat networks funded by central government aren’t the council’s to give away to a Swedish multinational. Let’s hope that isn’t the case.
After all, we don’t want another Bristol Energy shambles do we?
An announcement in March that the council’s £7.3m City Leap procurement process had finally come to an end and US firm Ameresco had got the contract to ‘decarbonise’ the city by 2030 was accompanied by a lovely Thatcherite kick in the teeth from Labour. As it was also revealed that the city’s heat network assets would be handed to Ameresco’s partner, Vattenfall to run.
Vattenfall is an energy multinational owned by the Swedish state. So we’re in the odd position of handing some of the city’s publicly owned energy assets over to the Swedish people to financially benefit from. Go figure. The announcement of this giveaway – that’s not even a sell-off as no price tag is attached – comes after claims as recently as February that the networks would be put into a joint venture company owned by the council and the private partner.
Bristol Holding boss, Peter Beange assured councillors at a scrutiny meeting on February 9 that the heat networks would be part of “a successful share sale to the winning City Leap joint venture.”
Not any more. The brand new networks of underground pipes and heat centres built with public money over the last seven years will now be fully privatised so that Bristolians can be squeezed for profit for heating their homes and businesses in an unregulated energy market.
The news didn’t seem to bother councillors at a scrutiny meeting on 28 March when the u-turn was revealed. Instead they engaged in another round of cheerleading for the private sector. Strange, because Labour, Green and Lib Dem politicians have all called for the Tories to nationalise energy providers in the face of the cost of living crisis and huge energy price hikes.
It’s like politicians come out with any old populist bollocks that they have no intention of really fighting for isn’t it?