Over the last six years, Northumberland County Council (NCC) has been leading a local green energy revolution, retrofitting many of its non-domestic buildings with low carbon ground source heat pumps, supplied by British manufacturer and installation partner, Kensa.

In 2019, the council declared a ‘climate emergency’, recognising that burning gas and other fuels for heat contributed to 38% of Northumberland’s emissions in the year previous. The county vowed to halve its carbon footprint by 2025 and to make Northumberland carbon-neutral by 2030.

To help achieve this goal, NCC has pioneered the use of sustainable, low carbon ground source heat technology, stating ‘heat pumps present the best value benefit against the carbon saved’1. To date, the council has undertaken 20 ground source heat pump projects in its portfolio of non-domestic buildings, including fire stations, schools and office premises.


Counting carbon savings

The 1025.09t CO2e saved to date by these ground source heat pump installations – the equivalent of a petrol car driving 2,544,484 miles around the county2 – has made a positive contribution towards the council reducing its carbon emissions by a third in recent years.

And with six more projects becoming operational in 2022, with a further combined CO2e saving of 408t pa, the ground source heat pump installations will help accelerate NCC towards its carbon neutral goal – especially as GSHPs have a typical lifespan of 20 years and become even more efficient as the grid continues to decarbonise.

Cllr Glen Sanderson, Leader of Northumberland County Council, said:

As a Council, we will continue to lead the way by reducing the energy consumption of our estate and installing renewable heat solutions in our buildings.

Moving forwards, we will be seeking to further support the implementation of heat pumps across the county through funding streams that we can access, starting with properties where the heating system needs replacement to maximise the benefits.

Ian Goodchild, Director of Non-Domestic Sales at Kensa Contracting, said:

The success of our partnership with Northumberland County Council demonstrates how ground source heat pump technology can be a mainstream heating solution for public buildings, and how forward-thinking councils and local authorities can capitalise on available funding streams to make these projects happen.”

Kensa has worked closely with the Council to provide bespoke ground source heat pump solutions in each scenario, leading to better thermal comfort and drastically reducing emissions. The higher efficiencies provided by the heat pumps lead to lower running costs, which delivers savings for the council across their asset portfolio, helping them get the most value and best delivery from their properties.

Kensa installed 14 ground source heat pump systems in a mixture of non-domestic buildings throughout the council’s estate between 2017 and 2019. The heating upgrades represented an investment of £11m.

Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme (PSDS)

In 2020, NCC was awarded £3,012,580 for 6 further ground source heat pump projects under Phase 1 of the government’s Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme (PSDS) – a fund dedicated to heat decarbonisation and capital energy efficiency projects in non-domestic public sector buildings across England.

As these projects complete in 2022, NCC is preparing applications for another 6 non-domestic retrofit projects featuring Kensa ground source heat pumps under Phase 3b of PSDS, again including schools and fire stations.

The Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme (PSDS) application window normally opens 3 months before award, and completion is generally within the next financial year. Kensa provides upfront support to clients to prepare for funding rounds. The next round is expected in October 2023. For public sector customers wanting to install ground source heat pumps, Kensa offers a free feasibility report service that can be included within funding applications and it is advised to look at projects, in advance of future funding rounds.

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