Department of Energy and Climate Change
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Cold water could heat one million homes

One million homes could be tapping into clean renewable heat hidden in our waterways.


At least one million homes and businesses across England could be tapping into clean renewable heat hidden in our waterways, a new online tool for communities has revealed.

The innovative and interactive online map has revealed the secret energy in over 4,000 rivers, estuaries, canals and coastal sites across the country that together could provide over six gigawatts of low-carbon heat to communities. By installing a water source heat pump people can help eliminate the need for dirty gas-fired domestic heating and a typical household could slash its carbon footprint by up to 50 per cent.

Launching the new map at Battersea Power Station in London yesterday, Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey said:

We need to make the most of the vast amount of clean, renewable heat that lays dormant and unused in our rivers, lakes and seas.

Doing this will help contribute to an energy mix that maximises clean, reliable home-grown resources rather than relying on foreign fossil fuels. It also provides a system that bolsters growth in our local economies, protects the natural environment, and creates resilient communities that are capable of producing sustainable power systems.

This is exactly why we’re giving local people, developers and councils the keys they need to unlock the enormous potential of our waterways.

Battersea Power Station is the latest developer to announce that it will be looking into installing a water source heat pump. Yesterday, energy company SSE was appointed to carry out a full heat pump feasibility study. The company will also investigate the re-use of existing engineering infrastructure that was built 80 years ago to connect the Power Station to the Thames when it was generating power. If a heat pump is installed at the site, it would be one of the energy sources used to provide heat to around 4000 new homes, shops, offices and public amenities being provided at the Power Station.

Phillip Gullett, chief operating officer at Battersea Power Station, said:

We are looking at a range of options to deliver the energy required for the homes, shops, restaurants and leisure facilities being created here at Battersea Power Station.

Being located on the banks of the River Thames in central London we are ideally placed to investigate what role water source technology may play in supplying our energy needs and we are delighted that SSE will be undertaking a feasibility study to establish the options available to us.

Richard Parry, chief executive of the Canal & River Trust, the charity that cares for 2,000 miles of waterways in England & Wales, said:

We very much welcome today’s announcement, which recognises the huge potential of water sourced heat pumps to deliver a low carbon solution to the UK’s heating and cooling demands.

We have a number of innovative projects already underway, or in development, on our canals and rivers. These are delivering benefits for waterside businesses and the environment and proving again that, 200 years after they were built, the waterways are still bringing a whole range of benefits to the nation.

Notes to editors

  • The Water Source Heat Map is a new tool on featuring on the National Heat Map. It is a publicly accessible, interactive web-based map showing the level of heat demand across England. It includes residential, commercial, industrial, public buildings and total heat demand. It aims to support planning and deployment of local low-carbon energy projects in England.
  • Water source heat pumps operate by taking heat from the water and feeding it into local heat networks or single buildings, providing a low-carbon source of renewable heat to local areas.
  • This map has identified 4,041 waterways made up of 3,769 rivers, 135 estuaries, 84 coastal sites and 53 canals around England.
  • The new interactive map provides developers and homeowners with information to help them get their water source heat pump projects up-and-running. It includes details of water conditions, such as temperature and flow rates, as well as the potential heat capacity of each waterway and the levels of heat demand across England – eliminating the cost and time it would take developers to conduct their own exploratory studies.
  • Alongside the map, the government has today published a flow chart to help people navigate the process of setting up a water source heat pump. The government is also working with the Environment Agency to make it easier and quicker than ever to apply for environmental permits. An industry-led Code of Practice to drive up technical standards in the heat pump industry is in development. The code is being funded by the government and will be launched later this year.
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