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Ground-breaking Greenwich ground source heat pump study

A team of experts has launched a pioneering project in the Royal Borough of Greenwich to assess the feasibility of switching gas-heated, owned-occupied homes in high density areas to low carbon heating in the form of networked ground source heat pumps.

The aim is to develop an innovative methodology for the coordination of high-density heat pump deployment which will support urban communities switching to a low carbon technology that will reduce energy demand, improve air quality and mitigate against rising energy costs. The work supports Royal Borough of Greenwich Council’s carbon neutral plan to reach net zero carbon emissions in 2030.

The Greenwich Thermal Infrastructure Motivating Electrification (Greenwich TIME) project is funded under Heat Pump Ready Programme Stream 1,  Phase 1,  which is part of the  BEIS  £1 billion Net Zero Innovation Portfolio (NZIP), which aims to accelerate the commercialisation of innovative clean energy technologies and processes through the 2020s and 2030s. 

The partners include: Element Energy, Kensa Contracting, Nationwide Building Society, UKPN, OVO Energy, Heat Geek and DG Cities.

Networked ground source heat pumps have been identified as the technology Greenwich will use to trial their innovative methodology, if the project be successful in Phase 2 of the programme. Networked ground source heat pumps have the potential to provide the lowest cost, lowest carbon decarbonisation pathway in a majority of situations, especially in high density urban areas, where the model allows whole streets to rapidly switch to low carbon heating technology.

The key barrier in adopting the technology has traditionally been the cost of installing underground infrastructure needed to extract renewable heat from the ground. The Greenwich project will explore the potential to decouple the up-front capital cost barrier of the ground side installation from customers via financing mechanisms similar to how existing domestic services (such as gas and electricity) are already funded. 

The Greenwich TIME project aims to enable consumers to replace their boiler with a networked heat pump in a way that is affordable and simple to understand and adopt and completed, with minimal household disruption. This can be used as a blueprint for the deployment of heat pumps at scale within other urban communities across the UK - in line with Government targets to have 600,000 heat pumps installed per year by 2028.

Trevor Dorling, managing director of DG Cities, said: “We know from our previous research that there are many hurdles to the widespread adoption of heat pumps. In our recent survey, 70% of people said they were ‘highly unlikely’ to buy one in the coming year. We’re looking forward to working with Greenwich residents to understand, in greater depth, exactly why this is. Our focus will be making sure our heat pump offering is innovative, builds confidence in the technology and reduces the barriers to adoption, including reducing upfront costs to households. We’re part of a great team of project partners, and can’t wait to get started in the borough.”

Sam Foster, partner at Element Energy, said: “Achieving widespread rollout of heat pumps in homes up and down the country is key to the UK reaching net zero.  The Government’s Electrification of Heat project has recently demonstrated that heat pumps are technically compatible with essentially all housing types.  The key challenge is now to engage households and bring together the delivery partners – including equipment providers, installers, suppliers and finance – to make heat pumps attractive, affordable and convenient for all.  We are delighted to be working with a brilliant team on the TIME project to develop and test innovative approaches to encourage and enable a heat pump community in the heart of Greenwich.”

James Standley, COO of Kensa Group, said: “We are very excited to be involved in this study of a potential community-scale urban ground source heat pump solution for decarbonising the nations’ heating. Kensa believes that the combination of low carbon technology and renewable infrastructure proposed in Greenwich is a key contender for the lowest system cost route to achieving net zero in the UK, and we are therefore keen to work with the project partners to explore the proposals.” 

Alex Thwaites, head of zero carbon living, OVO said: “We’re committed to supporting households across the UK to decarbonise their homes, moving the UK further away from reliance on fossil fuels. This project helps us to develop innovative propositions and offerings to support customers living in high density areas, ensuring they don’t get left behind in the energy transition. By working together with the project’s partners we can drive the technological solutions to move us towards zero carbon living.”

Patrick Wheeler, owner & director, Heat Geek, said: 'We work with both consumers who are interested in adopting low carbon technologies and forward-facing installers who want to be at the forefront of the heating revolution installing them.  There is an exponentially growing demand from both sides of the industry and both with their individual and unique barriers, these will take hard work and collaboration and we firmly believe that heat pumps will have their zeitgeist moment very soon.  We are happy and grateful to be a part of a wider group with a mutual goal to address the skill gap and find solutions to promote the uptake of heat pumps in our journey towards a net carbon zero future.'

24 August 2022

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