Southwark is first in London to fit new, eco-friendly heating

17 November 2022

In a first for London, Southwark Council fits new, ground water source heat pumps that use water from deep underground, to keep 2,000 Southwark homes warm.  

The completion of the work to decarbonise these homes was celebrated at the Newington Estate, one of three Southwark estates to benefit from the project. Cllr Kieron Williams, Leader of Southwark Council, gave Shirley Rodrigues, London’s Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy, a tour of the works, 15 November.

The new, eco-friendly heat pumps replace traditional gas boilers in existing plant rooms, on the estates. Water is drawn through new boreholes reaching 120 metres, far below the city. This supplies heat pumps, which generate heated water that is pushed through existing pipes into each home, providing heating and hot water for the people living there.

Southwark’s buildings are responsible for 75 per cent the borough’s carbon emissions. The council’s climate strategy and action plan identify greening homes and buildings as a top priority, as does its citizens’ jury on climate change.

The new heat pumps serve 2,175 homes across three Southwark estates: Consort, Newington, and Wyndham. Southwark Council worked with contractors Vital Energi and involved people living on all of the estates from the start of the project. Officers met members of the tenants’ and residents’ associations, shared a monthly newsletter and held regular meetings throughout the project.

Southwark Council funded most of the project with a low-interest loan of £7million from the Mayor of London’s Energy Efficiency Fund. It is repaying this with income from the Government’s Non-Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). 

This funding means that people living on the estates did not have to pay for the work, so decarbonising the heat networks hasn’t increased the cost of heating for people.

This protection for residents wouldn’t have been possible without the RHI income, because electricity is more than three times the price of gas. However, the RHI is now closed to new applicants, making it hard for this technology to bring the same benefits to other estates in Southwark, and across the country.  

The new estate-wide heat pumps will deliver great results for residents. They will keep homes warm, improve air quality, generate renewable energy and save thousands of tonnes of CO2. 

Cllr Kieron Williams said: “Climate Change is a top priority for Southwark, and greening our homes and buildings is a crucial part of tackling that, as residential buildings make up nearly 30 per cent of our borough’s emissions.

“It is great to celebrate some of the successes we’ve had on carbon-saving projects, and share what we’ve learnt on this innovative project that was the first of its kind in London’s housing sector. These new estate-wide heat pumps will deliver a win-win for residents, keeping their homes warm whilst generating renewable energy and preventing thousands of tonnes of carbon dioxide from being emitted.”

Shirley Rodrigues, London’s Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy, said: “We’re delighted to have helped fund this clean heat network at Newington estate through the Mayor’s Energy Efficiency Fund. The Mayor is committed to tackling the climate emergency, improving air quality and reducing heating costs for Londoners and is now providing funding to replicate Southwark’s innovative project in other parts of the capital. Initiatives like these are key to building a better, fairer and greener London for everyone.”

Page last updated: 17 November 2022