£5m grant to speed up the switch to net zero buildings in south Wales

Homes and buildings in south Wales that are low carbon and have cheaper energy costs are a step closer with a £5m grant for a project in the country.

Solar energy tubes on the side of the Active Buildings at Swansea University
Solar energy tubes on the side of the Active Buildings at Swansea University - SPECIFIC, Swansea University

Dubbed Switch to Net Zero Buildings, the new project will enable buildings across south Wales to generate, store and release their own heat and electricity.

Crucially, buildings would be linked together in a regional energy system that is low carbon and gives energy users more control.

The idea is to see ‘buildings as power stations’, a design concept pioneered by Swansea University for homes and non-domestic buildings. The principle has already been shown to work in the Active Buildings on Swansea University’s campus that generate, store and release their own energy.

The project’s aim is to speed up the rate at which innovations are adopted, which would bring down costs and see them deployed more widely. According to Swansea, this innovation ecosystem will also create strong local supply chains, boosting economic growth in the region.

In a statement, Professor Helen Griffiths, pro vice chancellor for research at Swansea University, said: "The Switch to Net Zero Buildings project builds on more than a decade of collaboration. At Swansea University we look forward to accelerating this work with our partners in government and industry to help deliver greener and more secure energy, lower bills, and an end to fuel poverty."

The project is a consortium led by Swansea University with Cardiff University and University of South Wales, in partnership with Neath Port Talbot Council, Welsh Government, and Net Zero Industry Wales.

The £5m funding has been awarded by the UKRI Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), in the form of a Place Based Impact Acceleration Account.

George Freeman, UK government science minister, said: “South Wales is a growing hub for sectors of the future, playing a pivotal role on our journey to net zero buildings, driving forward the UK’s hydrogen economy and through its pioneering semiconductor companies.

“Our more than £9m investment in projects led by Cardiff and Swansea universities will support comprehensive training and thousands of new jobs, while laying the groundwork that brings further private investment for years to come.”

The Switch to Net Zero Buildings account will be part of SWITCH, Wales’ Net Zero Accelerator, a collaborative network across academia, government and industry, coming together to support the region’s net zero ambitions.