Underground technology could be the answer

Ground source heating and cooling systems have the potential to heat 300,000 UK buildings by 2020 according to the Environment Agency which has published new guidance to support this energy revolution in homes and businesses. With Government incentives driving demand for renewable energy, the Environment Agency’s good practice guide supports the case for ground source heat and cooling systems as a viable source of sustainable energy for thousands of businesses and homes.

The Environment Agency is urging developers and architects to use the guidance when considering this technology option.

Ground source heating and cooling systems transfer heat between buildings and the ground beneath them.  Installed in a typical three-bed house, these systems can reduce energy bills by as much as £530 per year and carbon dioxide emissions by more than five tonnes per year, compared with an electric heating system. 

Big incentives

Environment Agency research indicates that there are around 12,000 ground source heat and cooling systems in the UK and that this figure could increase to more than 300,000 systems by 2020. The technology also offers big incentives for commercial developers and could make a significant contribution to the UK’s commitment to source 15% of energy from renewable sources by 2020.

A ground source heating and cooling system in the Environment Agency’s new national office, Horizon House, provides approximately 18% of the building’s energy needs. This installation will reduce annual energy bills for Horizon House by around £30,000.

Other organisations leading the way in installing ground source heating and cooling systems include IKEA, at their city centre store in Coventry; Sainsbury’s at their Crayford store in Greater London and the One New Change shopping centre in London, which has Europe’s largest heat pump.

Whilst supporting the increase in the use of renewable energy, the Environment Agency is urging developers, local authorities and businesses to follow good practice guidelines to ensure the most effective use of ground source heating and cooling and the protection of the environment.

Cut emissions

Lord Chris Smith, Chairman of the Environment Agency said: “Renewable energy will play a vital role in cutting carbon emissions and the long-term protection of the environment. However, renewable technology must be sustainable. These new guidelines for ground source heating and cooling will ensure that appropriate measures are taken to protect the local environment.

“The benefits of renewable energy go even further than environmental protection. They include a reduction in costs too. Leading companies already recognise this and could see energy costs reduced by tens of thousands of pounds per year as a result.”

The new guidance for installation of ground source heating and cooling systems provides designers, consultants and installers of these schemes with vital information on the steps that developers should take to protect the environment and comply with regulations when installing both open and closed loop systems. The Environment Agency has worked closely with the Ground Source Heat Pump Association to ensure that both organisations are providing consistent information to the industry and that these guidelines meet the industries requirements.

Jake Salisbury, Head of Operations at the Ground Source Heat Pump Association said: “We fully endorse the Environment Agency’s new guide on ground source heating and cooling and welcome the huge impact that it, and future standards, will bring to support this technology’s growth in the UK. We have worked closely with the Environment Agency on both the guide and our soon-to-be-published Vertical Borehole Standard, the first in a series of standards, in order to encourage sustainable growth of the industry.”

The Government estimates that ground source heating and cooling systems have the potential to provide up to 29% of total UK built environment heat demand by 2050.

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