Homeowners could store energy in ground

Renewable technology which uses energy stored in the ground to heat buildings and provide hot water could be installed in hundreds of thousands of homes and offices by the end of the next decade, according to a new report.

Renewable technology which uses energy stored in the ground to heat buildings and provide hot water could be installed in hundreds of thousands of homes and offices by the end of the next decade, according to a new report.

There are currently around 8,000 ground source heat pumps systems in the UK, far fewer than in other European countries such as Sweden, although the market is expanding rapidly - and doubled last year from 4,000 to current numbers.

But a report for the Environment Agency said the technology could be installed in 320,000 homes and businesses by 2020, with support from the Government.

And if enough support is given, through the Renewable Heat Incentive which comes in in 2012 and will pay homeowners and businesses a guarantee price for generating renewable heat, more than one million could be put in place.

At the top end of its potential, ground source heat technology could be installed in more than one in ten homes and in 40 per cent of commercial buildings.

Even if growth is limited to being installed in 320,000 homes and business – 1 per cent of households and 11 per cent of commercial buildings, it could provide 30 per cent of the renewable heat the UK needs to produce to meet its goals to supply renewable energy by 2020.

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% 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."

Heat pumps need electricity to drive the pump, which pumps liquid down into the ground to harness the heat there and then brings it back to the surface for use in heating and hot water systems - or carries warmth down below ground to cool buildings - but provide three or four times the energy used to drive the system.

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