Could Hackney’s green spaces provide London’s clean heat?

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Hackney Council is to look at whether installing heat pumps in the borough's parks and green spaces could help provide clean heating for nearby buildings in addition to offering a stable, low-risk revenue stream, as part of a new project announced this week.

The council has teamed up with charity 10:10 Climate Action and consultancy Scene for the project, which will explore whether underground and water-based heat pumps in the borough's green spaces could displace gas, oil or electricity to heat council or third-party-owned buildings such as schools or homes.

Heating currently accounts for around a third of UK greenhouse gas emissions, primarily from natural gas used in boilers. It is widely regarded as one of the harder areas of the economy to decarbonise.

Heat pumps are seen by some as a potential solution, as they use electricity to concentrate low temperature heat stored in the ground, or bodies of water, and pump it through pipes into buildings for heating. However, unlike in Germany where 43 per cent of residential buildings have heat pumps installed, the technology is rarely used in the UK.

The Powering Parks initiative announced on Monday could therefore demonstrate a cost-effective means of switching from using fossil fuels to heat pumps that would potentially generate income for the council, the project partners said.

Hackney councillor Jon Burke, cabinet member for energy, sustainability and community services, said it was important for the council to "take the lead in proactively reducing our reliance on fossil fuels".

"The Powering Parks project has the potential to help us unlock sustainable energy and save - or even generate - money for important council services," he said.

Max Wakefield, lead campaigner at 10:10 Climate Action, welcomed the "groundbreaking" initiative.

"While this scorching summer has seen the public flood into the UK's parks, it's one of the clearest signs yet that our climate is changing fast," he said. "To avoid catastrophic climate change we need to rapidly cut carbon - and that means stopping burning gas and oil to heat our buildings. Heat pumps are one way to do that - and what's so exciting about this project is the possibility of tackling climate change and helping protect the green spaces all of us value so much at the same time."