A new study by energy consultant Element Energy has found that the wide-spread deployment of ground source heat pumps (GSHP) alongside demand shifting could reduce Britain’s electricity consumption by up to 24TWh a year by 2050.
Networked GSHPs use in-street pipework that absorbs heat at 10°C all year round, delivering it to domestic heat pumps.
As the pipework would be owned by a third party, the upfront infrastructure costs would be removed for individuals.
The Low Carbon Heat Study listed four additional key findings from its research:
- Annual peak electricity demand in Britain could be reduced by up to 36GW
- Up to £15.1 billion could be saved in electricity costs every year from now to 2050
- Networked GSHPs can be 20% cheaper (£290) a year to install and operated that air source heat pumps (ASHPs)
- Networked GSHPs consume 40% less electricity than ASHPs to provide the same amount of heat
“Achieving widespread rollout of heat pumps in homes up and down the country is key to the UK reaching net zero. This exciting study has generated some fascinating insights into the benefits that greater deployment of ground source heat pumps could provide to the UK’s energy system by mitigating much of the need for costly investments in electricity generation and network upgrades,” said Sam Foster, partner at Element Energy.
“We have shown how individual households can benefit from ground source heat pumps and heat flexibility when these are deployed at scale. We’re proud to have led this study, which presents a strong case to re-assess the role that ground source heat pumps can play in the future energy system.”
At the same time of Element Energy’s report, the UK’s primary GSHP manufacturer, Kensa released three key policy measures to accelerate the adoption of GSHP.
- Lower electricity costs – the myriad of additional levies imposed on electricity but not gas mean that heat pump efficiencies (three times more efficient than gas boilers) are not translating into major cost savings for consumers.
- Reform heat pump support schemes – Kensa said that current support schemes fail to recognise the long-term benefits of GSHPs; customers ought to receive support for the higher upfront cost of GSHPs to enjoy the long-term cost savings.
- More active support for heat network zones – although the Government has plans to establish ‘heat network zones’, Kensa called for the plans to be “more ambitious” with appropriate technology-specific support offered to encourage uptake.
“Element Energy’s study demonstrates well the benefits of ground source heat pumps, including lower household bills and energy consumption, reduced strain on the electricity grid, and billions saved in energy infrastructure upgrades and investment. Critically, the study demonstrates that by taking a networked approach and leveraging private-sector finance, it is possible to deliver these benefits without requiring householders to pay more upfront,” said Dr. Matthew Trewhella, CEO of The Kensa Group.
“However, as a British manufacturer committed to supporting the government’s climate targets and developing a domestic supply chain, the policy environment remains extremely challenging for us. The current one-size-fits-all approach to clean heat will not deliver the optimum mix of technologies.”
In the same way that different electricity generation technologies, from solar to offshore wind, have been supported by tailored policy, various heating technologies will require their own targeted approach. If the UK is to see the benefits of ground source energy, it is vital the government starts to see this technology as a long-term infrastructure investment – a 21st century replacement for the gas grid – and develops policy accordingly.”
Earlier this month, Kensa received “Britain’s biggest investment” in GSHP – £70 million granted by Octopus Energy’s generation arm.