Low Carbon Heating

Social housing to get hybrid boiler upgrades in low-carbon heating trials

Image credit: UK Power Networks

UK Power Networks is launching a pilot programme to install hybrid boilers in social housing as part of plans to reduce the UK’s carbon emissions.

The electricity distribution firm is launching its ‘Right to Heat’ project which also includes the installation of solar panels and batteries in up to 25 low-income homes across South East England.

It hopes the project will create a template for green heating in social housing that will boost adoption of hybrid boilers which use both gas and electricity.

The project is a partnership between UK Power Networks, Stonewater, Social Energy, Passiv UK, and SGN and follows calls from charities last year for the government to offer upfront grants to low-income households to cover the cost of installing low-carbon heating.

The government’s latest figures show up to 3.9 million people around the UK live in social housing, and these homes account for 15 per cent of the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

The compact hybrid heating systems have smart controls that can automatically switch between gas and electricity at certain times, depending on different factors including changing energy costs.

By sometimes using electric heating, residents will use less natural gas overall. With solar panels providing on-site generation, and batteries storing surplus energy for later, residents will also use less energy from the electricity network, saving them money and reducing household emissions.

Stonewater customer Paul Brennan, who had a heat pump installed last winter as part of a related trial, said: “Even though my heat pump has only been installed a short time, it was immediately noticeable how much I was saving. If you think about all the people in this area using less than the energy they would normally use, it’s not just the savings to the people that would matter, but the impact overall would be brilliant as well.”

Ian Cameron, head of customer services and innovation at UK Power Networks, said: “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.”

Right to Heat continues until March 2023, and follows UK Power Networks’ HyCompact project, which is testing hybrid heating systems in seven homes across Wales, London and South-East England.

In January 2021, the government announced updated rules for new buildings that should lower their carbon footprint by making them more energy-efficient, but environmental campaigners called for the measures to be introduced sooner than the current 2025 date.

Last October, the government said it would introduce £5,000 grants to encourage homeowners to upgrade ageing boiler systems to low-carbon options.

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