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February 2021

Sussex village to become zero carbon role model

By Cally Southern

Nicki Myers and Mark Engineer from Ovesco at Sewells Farm solar scheme, in Barcombe

Nicki Myers and Mark Engineer from the Ovesco team for CommuniHeat at Sewells Farm, in Barcombe, where a local solar scheme provides renewable energy to a local business park.

A Sussex village could hold one of the keys to helping the UK reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Residents in Barcombe, East Sussex, are helping their local electricity network operator to create a model roadmap for ‘greener’ home heating that will in time show the way for other communities to follow suit.

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 the ‘CommuniHeat’ project, run by network operator UK Power Networks. Throughout the two-year project, engineers 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.

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.

Maria Caulfield MP for Lewes Constituency, said: “Decarbonising heating systems is crucial to tackling the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions and I’m delighted that Barcombe is leading the way to demonstrate how to make the decarbonisation of heat a reality. It is fantastic to see UK Power Networks passionately collaborating with a range of stakeholders, to ensure they support rural constituents like mine to decarbonise as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

Ian Cameron, head of customer services and innovation, said: “This project is all about facilitating the reduction of carbon emissions through collaboration. We know where emissions come from, and we know the end goal. We’re delighted to be working with this forward-thinking community to actively make net zero heating a reality for all.”

Ollie Pendered, local resident and Chief Executive of Community Energy South, “We are incredibly proud to be working with experts from UK Power Networks, Buro Happold and local pioneering Community Energy Group Ovesco to make a low carbon future a reality for rural villages. CommuniHeat has the potential to take rural communities to net zero fast, create a new market for local installers, create future jobs while benefiting residents. Coupled with the impact of Covid-19 and the need to tackle climate change, this project has a real chance of making a positive impact.”

Chris Rowland, Director of Ovesco, said: “We established Ovesco in 2007 working with Lewes District Council to support local people across the district on the benefits of low carbon energy. Communiheat will mean that we can support local people and establish a locally employed team to support the transition to low carbon future, making energy work for us and save money on household bills.”

Phil Proctor, Associate Director Energy of Buro Happold, said: “Decarbonisation of heat is crucial if we are going to deliver against our carbon targets, but it’s not without its challenges.

“Buro Happold is therefore very excited to work with UK Power Networks, Ovesco and Community Energy South to ‘write the book’ on how communities can work together with the local network utility to develop the best solutions incorporating local area planning and community energy services.”

Notes to editors:

1. Ovesco is a pioneering community interest company run for the local community in Lewes and the surrounding area since 2007. The first of its kind in the UK, Ovesco was described as ‘the vanguard of the community revolution’ when winning the Ashden Award in 2014. Since then, Ovesco has created community owned renewable energy projects, generating local investment and saving many tonnes of carbon emissions. Ovesco is a founding member of Community Energy South, a regional umbrella group for the community energy sector in the South East. On this project Community Energy South is a support partner for Ovesco, and advising on communications and sharing best practice. Community Energy South will work with the Partners to write the book on how communities can achieve the transition to low-carbon heating over the next 10 years so we can share our learning with other rural communities throughout the UK.
Examples of Ovesco projects: Brickyard Farm in Barcombe has 19.5kW of solar PV generating 18,500kW, saving 7.95 tonnes of carbon a year and providing free electricity to the eco friendly facilities at the Secret Campsite. Barcombe Nursery Box Scheme has 9kW of solar PV generating 9,500kW, saving 4.1 tonnes of carbon a year and providing free electricity for the on site chillers to keep the fruit and vegetables fresh prior to delivery. Our vision is for a future where 100% of our energy needs are generated locally from renewable resource. Our mission is to generate community owned renewable energy locally and help as many people as possible to do the same. We educate and help people to use less oil, coal and gas and share our experience to inspire others. 

2. Buro Happold Described as ‘passionate’, ‘innovative’, ‘collaborative’: Buro Happold is an independent, international engineering practice that for over 40 years has become synonymous  with the delivery of creative, value led building and city solutions for an ever changing world. Having worked on every continent, their clients include more than 90% of the world’s leading architectural practices and they have collaborated with global organisations such as the United Nations, The World Bank and UNESCO. Through their global community of driven, world leading engineering and consulting professionals they deliver elegant solutions for buildings and cities that seek to address the major problems facing societies today.
They have made two important pledges: Aim to be net zero carbon for their own business operations by the end of the financial year ending April 2021; their target is that all new build projects will be net zero carbon in operation by 2030 and all projects by 2050.

3. UK Power Networks is the country’s biggest electricity distributor, making sure the lights stay on for more than eight million homes and businesses across London, the South East and the East of England.
Network operators aren’t the same as energy suppliers; network operators manage local power lines and substations, while energy suppliers sell the electricity that runs through the power lines.
UK Power Networks continues to be listed in the Sunday Times’ Top 25 Best Big Companies to Work For, and made industry history by becoming first company to win Utility of the Year two years running (2015 and 2016, also 2012).
The company invests more than £600 million in its electricity networks every year, offers extra help to vulnerable customers at times of need, and is undertaking trials to ensure that electricity networks support the transition to a low carbon future. It also moves cables and connects new electricity supplies. If you have a power cut ring 105, see or tweet us @UKPowerNetworks

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