Energy ministry Beis has unveiled plans to decarbonise Britain’s homes and public buildings, releasing £44 million to trial low-carbon heat networks, heat pumps and green solutions.
Homes, the source of nearly one third of all UK carbon emissions, are once again in ministers’ policy crosshairs.
Three domestic-focused heat networks in south-east London, Manchester and rural Cambridgeshire will between them benefit from £30 million of the funding.
More than £12 million is earmarked to develop one of the UK’s largest heat networks, serving 21,000 homes in the London Borough of Bexley. Heat will be provided by incinerators run by energy company Vattenfall, scheduled to start operations in the coming decade. If successful, the network could be extended to 75,000 homes across the Thames Estuary.
In Manchester £14.7 million will be spent on a network spanning five square kilometres of the city centre. It will distribute low carbon electricity, heat and cooling to buildings including a hospital, mixed social and private housing, student accommodation and even as the city’s Heineken brewery.
Solar panels and air source heat pumps, not waste incineration, will be the energy source.
Three hundred properties in the Cambridgeshire village of Swaffham Prior will benefit from £3.3 million spent on a first-in-kind community-led scheme. A network of hybrid ground and air source heat pumps will be a rural pathfinder, weaning homes off oil-fired heating.
Benchmark savings from heat networks anticipated under the schemes will be an average 22% drop in carbon emissions, plus 15% off bills.
Eleven further projects will also benefit, including Durham University’s flooding trials in abandoned mineshafts, aimed at extracting geothermal heat.
Lord Callanan, minister for climate change said: “This funding package will accelerate the development of low-carbon technologies that will both reduce emissions, and ensure people’s homes are warmer, greener and cheaper to run”.
“Securing a lasting move away from fossil fuels to heat our homes will allow thousands of households and businesses to feel the benefits of projects that are breaking new ground and making our villages, towns and cities cleaner places to live and work”
Today’s announcement comes ahead of publication due later this year of the government’s Heat and Buildings Strategy. This will set out how carbon emissions in homes and workspaces will be addressed to meet legal commitments over ending contributions to climate change by 2050.
It’s all very laudable but the £11,000-per-dwelling project cost at Swaffham is troubling. Heat networks are not the sort of technology that is likely to yield significant economies of scale but supposing real-life costs of £5,000 per dwelling could be achieved, how many householders or landlords are willingly going to make that investment? There are downsides to every aspect of this programme. Agreed we need to do something but a dose of practical realism would help.