Support for ground source heating

Ground source heat pumps (GSHPs) could produce a third of the UK’s renewable heat by 2020, a report from the Environment Agency has found.

GSHPs use buried pipes to extract heat from the ground. This is usually used to warm water for radiators or underfloor heating systems. It can also be used to pre-heat water before it goes into a more conventional boiler.

Although the UK is lagging behind other European countries such as Sweden, where the technology is commonplace, the market is rapidly expanding – doubling in the last year alone.

A new report from the Environment Agency claims that the idea could produce a third of the UK’s renewable heat by 2020.

In the UK there are an estimated 8,000 ground source heat pumps, but the report suggests that if the government introduces sufficient support for them, this could increase to more than a million.

The Renewable Heat Incentive – which will be introduced in 2012 and will pay homeowners and businesses a guaranteed price for generating renewable heat – will be the most important factor in determining how much the GSHP industry grows.

Heat pumps are not carbon neutral, as they need electricity to drive the pump, but they typically generate three to four times the energy used to drive the system.

The pumps are increasingly popular in London, where they have been used by developers to meet the Merton Rule, which requires large developments to build some on-site renewable energy generation. Ground source heat pumps are also currently being installed at Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge and the new Environment Agency head office in Bristol.

Tony Grayling, head of climate change and sustainable development at the Environment Agency, said: ‘Ground source heating is a rapidly growing technology that has the potential to produce at least 30 per cent of the country’s renewable heat needs, but it needs financial support in order to grow. We would like to see this technology given adequate financial support through the new renewable heat incentive to meet its full potential in the UK.’