Many of the best known public buildings in Birmingham will have their heating systems switched to an environmentally-friendly power source in a move to reduce poisonous carbon dioxide emissions.

A #6 million city council scheme plans to use Combined Heat and Power technology to provide air conditioning and hot water for corporate and commercial buildings in the Broad Street area and at Eastside.

The environmental benefits will see CO2 emissions cut by 17,000 tonnes a year – 20 per cent within four years, the equivalent of planting two million trees, according to the council.

CHP, promoted by the Government as a greener way to produce power, uses the heat generated by the production of electricity, which is normally wasted, to run heating systems.

Beneficiaries will include the International Convention Centre, the National Indoor Arena, the Repertory Theatre, the Town Hall, Millennium Point, Aston University, Birmingham Children's Hospital and the Victoria Law Courts.

Companies bidding for the right to supply the council with CHP for 25 years intend to establish two small power plants, one at the ICC and one at Aston University.

A Government grant of #2.1 million plus a contribution of #3.9 million from the successful tenderer means that CHP can be introduced at no cost to the council.

The council will agree to buy energy from the appointed tenderer, but cost savings from the new system are guaranteed at five per cent below energy market rates.

The move, backed by the cabinet this week, is seen as the beginning of a long term strategy to cut the council's huge energy costs.