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UKPN launches low carbon heating system for social housing in Right to Heat project

Paul Brennan, Stonewater Homes resident who had a heat pump installed last winter as part of an earlier trial, said: “Even though my heat pump has only been installed a short time, it was immediately noticeable how much I was saving." Image: UKPN.

Paul Brennan, Stonewater Homes resident who had a heat pump installed last winter as part of an earlier trial, said: “Even though my heat pump has only been installed a short time, it was immediately noticeable how much I was saving." Image: UKPN.

UK Power Networks (UKPN) has launched a new low carbon heating trial that will see hybrid boilers – that run off both electricity and gas – battery energy storage and solar panels installed in social housing.

The Right to Heat project will look to install the systems in 25 homes across the South East, and run until March 2023. This will create a template for further green heating installations in social housing.

In the UK, up to 3.9 million people live in social housing, with these homes accounting for around 15% of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

“Right to Heat is about creating a scalable template for social housing so no one is left behind in tackling the climate crisis. We’re determined to make the transition work for all our customers, no matter their circumstances,” said Ian Cameron, head of customer services and innovation at UKPN.

The network operator is working with Stonewater, Social Energy, Passiv UK and SGN on the project.

When installed, the compact heating systems will be managed using smart controls that can automatically switch between electricity and gas based on a number of factors including cost.

Customers will therefore be able to use less gas, and thanks to the battery storage and solar power combination as part of the system, less electricity from the network, further saving money.

“We understand the importance of everyone having a warm, comfortable and affordable place that they can call home,” said Adam Masters, environmental sustainability manager at social housing company Stonewater.

“Our involvement with Right to Heat will enable more of our customers, but also residents of other housing providers, to reap the environmental and cost benefits of low carbon heating - sooner rather than later.”

Right to Heat builds on UKPN’s previous project HyCompact, which saw hybrid heating systems installed in seven homes across Wales, London and the South East through a partnership with gas network Wales & West Utilities.

The need to ensure a just transition to low carbon heating systems will be increasingly important in coming years, and a number of initiatives and support schemes have already been announced. Most recently British Gas announced a new heat pump offering, with plans for installations in social housing.

In October 2021, the government announced plans to offer grants of £5,000 for the installation of heat pumps from April 2022 as part of a £450 million scheme to upgrade domestic heating infrastructure.

Similarly, the Mayor of London committed £51 million through the Warmer Homes scheme for the rollout of energy efficiency technologies including heat pumps in December 2021, with a particular focus on helping vulnerable Londoners and those on low incomes.

With energy bills expected to skyrocket in April as the energy crisis – which saw 28 suppliers collapse in 2021 as gas prices grew around 500% - continues, the need to ensure those in social housing can benefit from the cost savings of low carbon heating systems in the long run has been thrown into even clearer focus.

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