DUBLIN City Council is to go into competition with ESB and Bord Gais and become a major supplier of heat and power to city homes.
Household waste will be used to light and heat homes, hotels and offices under plans to develop a citywide district heating system driven by the controversial Poolbeg incinerator.
A study commissioned by the council, seen by the Irish Independent, says that introducing the system will cost about €90m and will lead to lower bills for homeowners, and fewer emissions of greenhouse gases.
The waste-to-energy plant will produce most of the power required to feed the system, but excess heat generated by power stations in Poolbeg, and smaller heating systems in the civic offices, the Guinness brewery and city hospitals will also be harnessed if required.
District heating, which is commonly used throughout Europe, costs less to run. In Dublin, it would burn up to 600,000 tonnes of waste to generate the power, instead of oil and gas.
According to assistant city manager Matt Twomey: "The grand plan is to have a citywide district heating (DH) scheme triggered by the waste-to-energy plant. Combined heat and power plants, like those in Guinness, will kick in during an emergency.
"If you base it on waste . . . it's cheaper than oil and gas. It's the intention of the city to act as a catalyst for district heating.
"With new buildings there's no problem, but existing buildings will have to be retrofitted. It will provide hot water and heating, and district cooling for shopping centres and hotels in the summer.
"The docklands is really the ideal location (for a DH scheme)," he added.
Dublin already has some district heating, most notably in Ballymun -- where 2,820 flats were powered -- but the system is being decommissioned because of inefficiencies.
Some developers have inbuilt the capacity to tap into district heating. Treasury Holdings at Spencer Dock will be powered by gas until DH comes on stream, while Elm Park in Dublin 4 is also fitted out for the switch. The Point Village will also be able to avail, as will Heuston South Quarter.
Up to 60,000 homes could be heated by the Poolbeg plant, and up to 32,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide saved by a citywide scheme. But the report also warns of disruption while the system is installed, although power could be provided from as early as 2012.
"As the number of connected customers grows, the network will require additional heat. This could be supplied by the power plants at Poolbeg, which currently generate heat as a by-product and require cooling.
"This will increase their efficiency and is likely to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions," according to the report.