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Heat Decarbonisation


We’re working with the community of Barcombe, East Sussex,  to create a low carbon heating blueprint for off-gas grid communities. The village could hold one of the keys to helping the UK reach Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050. Learn more at the CommuniHeat website.

Project-on-a-Page summary

Project data

Start date: 31/10/2020
End date: 30/06/2022
Budget: £919,688

Fossil-fuel based heating accounts for around a third of UK carbon emissions, making decarbonising heat a vital part of the UK’s legally-binding commitment to reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Across the UK, there are four million properties like those in Barcombe which are ‘off-gas grid’, meaning residents burn fossil fuels for cooking and heating. This produces significant carbon emissions and is often expensive.

Over 600 households are involved in CommuniHeat. Throughout the two-year project, we will work with community groups and local partners to research, gather data and compare approaches for reducing the village’s carbon emissions from household heating.

CommuniHeat aims to best understand how Barcombe and similar communities could switch to low-carbon heating using electricity. Engineers from UK Power Networks will work with local community group Ovesco to host digital community events and engagement to understand residents’ needs and opinions. The project will also install energy meters in the village and consultancy Buro Happold will create new computer models to forecast the impacts of electrifying heat. In doing so, the project partners hope to create a sustainable, replicable model for Barcombe that could be applied in other parts of the country.

Decarbonising heating is a new area of innovation for the industry. We launched our industry-first Heat Strategy in March 2020, and CommuniHeat is one of our first heat-focused projects. It is a collaborative project that will produce a range of new data-driven insights to help compare approaches for low carbon heating in Barcombe. In doing so, we hope to create an innovative blueprint so other communities can follow suit in the future.

Data from the newly-installed meters will offer new insights into how residents currently use their energy. With this new information, UK Power Networks can run advanced simulations for different approaches to installing low carbon electrical heating. The simulations will investigate the costs, efficiency, and electricity network impact of multiple different approaches, including shared district heating, medium sized heat pumps serving a few properties, or personal electrical heat pumps installed at each property.

The project will then look at potential community finance models for making the switch and analyse how other smart technology like electric vehicles and solar power could play a role. With a clear plan in place, residents will understand what a zero carbon future could look like.

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