Landowners urged to embrace renewable heat technology now in light of Government plans to end fossil fuels in new builds by 2025

28 March 2019

Shared Ground Loop Arrays with ground source heat pumps Schematic.jpg

Paul Dennison, Sales Manager at CLA ENews Partner Kensa Heat Pumps advises CLA members to explore the renewable alternatives to fossil fuels now, whilst Government subsidy in the form of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), is available.

Paul is the Sales Manager for Kensa Heat Pumps. He joined Kensa in 2007 to spearhead sales through the expanding distributor and installer networks and to manage Kensa's in-house sales team.

"The Government’s Spring Statement, which coincided with a recent announcement from the Committee for Climate Change (CCC), set out a clear commitment to the rapid decarbonisation of heat with the introduction of a future homes standard mandating the end of fossil-fuel heating systems in all new houses from 2025.

With just six years to achieve this ambitious low-carbon target, leading UK heat pump manufacturer and installer, Kensa Heat Pumps, is advising CLA Members to explore the renewable alternatives to fossil fuels now, whilst Government subsidy in the form of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), is available.

Moving away from fossil fuels

Government recognises that ground source heat pumps are a strategically important technology for supporting its legally binding and ambitious climate-change targets.

The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) exists to offset the additional costs of switching from fossil fuels to renewable heat technology such as ground source heat pumps, and is open to applications until spring 2021. Landowners installing ground source heat pumps in single domestic dwellings can benefit from a guaranteed quarterly income for seven years through the Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).

There are other benefits too - Kensa Heat Pumps points out that ground source heat pumps have the proven ability to deliver lower cost heating, combined with superior energy efficiencies, significant carbon savings and air pollution reduction in comparison to traditional fossil fuels, in particular oil.

Aside from the obvious downsides of oil – budgeting for bulk deliveries, fuel storage, and vulnerability to volatile price fluctuations – using the carbon intensity factors proposed for SAP 10, the software that demonstrates compliance with building regulations, an oil boiler emits almost five times as much carbon as a ground source heat pump.

Converting multiple buildings

Whilst individual dwellings featuring ground source heat pumps offer admirable eco merits, the true value of the technology becomes apparent when it is deployed at scale.

For landowners looking at converting multiple buildings, such as barns to holiday lets, connecting these buildings to a shared pipework infrastructure in the ground, which feeds low-grade heat energy to individual ground source heat pumps inside each property, has many benefits. This set up mimics a gas framework; yet brings with it a far lower carbon and financial cost, in addition to no air pollution, no requirement for servicing or maintenance, no need for planning, and twenty years of Non Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) income, as opposed to seven under the Domestic RHI.

This communal system is referred to as shared ground loop arrays. It is a system design Kensa Heat Pumps has pioneered since 2012 and is already being widely used across the UK. Indeed, shared ground loop arrays are making the roll out of the technology viable at scale in rural areas where alternative forms of heat are not easily accessible.

Simon Lomax, CEO of the Kensa Group explains his vision for the future: “Beyond the scope of the RHI in its current form, it is likely that entities will emerge to fund, own and maintain ground arrays in return for an annual connection fee so developers can sidestep the cost burden.  This will ensure that more efficient, reliable and durable ground source heat pumps will cost no more than air source heat pumps.  In time, more innovative models will emerge which sell energy as a service for a fixed fee to any householder; a ground source heat pump is perfectly suited to this innovation.”

Current and future grid capacity

As for the availability of electricity and impact of mass deployment of heat pumps on the grid, the international peer-reviewed journal, Energy Policy, recently concluded that the electrification of domestic heating on the grid is far less problematic than previously thought, affirming the long-term prospects for heat pumps.

Their report, Decarbonising domestic heating: What is the peak GB demand?,  concluded peak heat demand is 170 GW, around 40% lower than previously thought, and the maximum ramp rate is 60 GW/h, around 50% lower than previously thought. The report says, “the difficulties surrounding the electrification of heat are far less profound than previously assumed. These results can be used in the development of future energy pathways and scenarios.”

Over the next 10 years there will be significant changes to the energy market with electricity becoming increasingly important.  The emergence of dynamic tariffs (which vary electricity charges depending upon the time of use) will permit further savings for the heat pump option, as will the use of heat storage products, smart controls and, in some circumstances, battery storage, to mitigate capacity problems.

Kensa encourages entrepreneurial landowners with existing electricity generation schemes on-site, for example Solar PV or wind turbines, to consider that ground source heat pumps can turn any excess electricity that cannot be exported back to the grid into useful, renewable heat. This can be used to diversify businesses, as well as further reducing energy bills and emissions, as well as earning a guaranteed income through the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).

Against this backdrop it is easy to see why Government views ground source heat pumps as strategically important, and how the technology presents a cheaper and cleaner heating solution than oil, direct electric or gas."

Paul Dennison 

Sales Manager 
Kensa Heat Pumps