The value of renewable heating and solar technologies

Claire Williams, Managing Director for British Gas New Energy: In her first guest blog, Claire talks about the importance of renewable heating and solar. She is responsible for delivering the Energy Company Obligation for British Gas, as well as insulation and renewable energy to help hundreds of thousands of customers reduce their energy bills.

Renewable heating and solar technologies have tremendous value – they have multiple benefits and we believe they are helping the UK better balance the conflicting priorities faced today; to make energy affordable, decarbonised and ensure its security of supply.

Alongside energy efficiency, solar panels and renewable heating can play an important role keeping homes warm and well lit by reducing the amount of energy consumed and enabling customers to generate their own energy, both of which can help lower energy bills. This in turn contributes to cutting carbon emissions from customer energy consumption - one of the biggest sources of emissions associated with our business - and also reduces demand for fossil fuelled power and heating.

These technologies therefore have a significant impact in helping the Government meet its 2030 greenhouse gas targets which require the UK to cut emissions by 50% from 1990 levels. Part of this also means we are forecast to generate 12% of heating from renewable sources and install up to 10GW of solar PV by 2020.

We believe that changes in the heating and electricity mix in favour of measures such as district heating, heat pumps and solar can make these targets achievable (note 1). And as an energy company, we can play a central role supporting the Government with these commitments through our expertise and strong market presence. In doing so, our actions will also support our strategy to give customers better value and a greater range of services.

So what have we done? In 2013, we continued to install technologies such as heat pumps, biomass boilers, district heating and solar for domestic and commercial customers as well as community projects across the UK. These products, in addition to those we’ve already installed since 2010, have made big cost and carbon savings a reality - around 9.8m tonnes of COequivalentemissions (equivalent to taking 668,000 cars of the road)!

What measures are we prioritising?

Low carbon district heating is a major focus for us. This is where multiple buildings such as domestic tower blocks or commercial buildings like hospitals are heated from a single source which can come from a range of measures that best suits the property. These could include biomass, gas or heat pumps. In 2013, we signed contracts for 4,200 connections across the UK - most of these were biomass fuelled social housing properties that contribute to our commitment to the Energy Company Obligation. For example, British Gas is working closely with Solihull Community Housing to install insulation and biomass (note 2) district heating that will enable high-rise homes to stay warmer through greater efficiency, reduced maintenance and heating costs as well as achieve lifetime carbon savings of over 130,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions by 2015. We contracted a total of 25MW of renewable heating in 2013. There are also a substantial number of homes that could benefit from district heating which potentially presents a strong business opportunity for us in the future.

In 2013 we delivered 490 solar PV installations at homes, schools and businesses. We had an increased emphasis on larger scale commercial installations which increased the total generating capacity of installed solar compared with 2012. While domestic installations were lower than the previous year, we expect appetite to increase in a few years’ time as cost reductions for solar panels stimulate greater demand for domestic deployment and following increased certainty on subsidies such as the Feed in Tariff. School installations were delivered under British Gas’ Solar For Schoolsprogramme, where over 290 schoolshave now benefitted from lower energy costs through free solar panels since 2010.

Alongside the financial benefits for installing solar panels, we are also working with local authorities to produce installations that visually enhance the look of an area or building. For example, we have installed floor to ceiling panels on the south façade of Shepherd’s Bush station and have worked with Walsall Housing Group to create an array on one building 32 metres in height (see photo below) with expected electricity generation of 25,000kWh, providing a lifetime carbon saving in excess of 300 tonnes.We remain committed to delivering value through low carbon technology for our customers, community and the Government both now and in the future.


1 Measures are also driven by the Government’s Renewable Heat Incentive, the Renewables Obligation and the Energy Company Obligation (ECO).

2 Fuelled by wood pellets from sustainable sources

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