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Heat pumps powered by community wind turbines could cut bills – report

Community energy schemes using onshore wind to power heat pumps could cut household bills by more than a quarter compared to gas, a report suggests.

Systems using electric heat pumps largely powered by local onshore turbines could offer a saving of 26% compared to gas heating, the study by climate campaign group Possible and energy experts Regen suggests.

If houses are installed with solar panels and batteries to reduce the reliance on the grid for power, that can cut the costs by as much as 31% compared to gas central heating, the report says.

The study models the upfront and running costs of a wind power and heat pump system to 2,000 homes paired with a 2 megawatt (MW) community onshore wind turbine, with remaining power demand met by the grid.

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It says wind and heat projects could be cost competitive or cheaper than continuing with gas boilers, with the 26% reduction based on 2023’s gas price cap.

The report also says the projects would cut carbon emissions by up to 90% compared to gas heating, and protect households from price volatility.

Community-owned wind farms can also generate revenues and benefits for the local area, it argues.

And 3,700 of the most deprived neighbourhoods in England are within one kilometre (0.6 miles) of an area of good onshore wind resources, so it could also reduce fuel poverty.

But there are significant barriers to helping communities make the most of the opportunity, the report warns.

Urgent changes are needed to energy bills, as most policy costs such as green support are levied on electricity, making heat pumps more expensive to run than gas boilers, it argues.

An overly restrictive planning regime also remains a barrier for new onshore wind projects in England despite changes made by the Government which it said would unblock new schemes, the organisations warn.

And there is a need for low-cost finance and support for communities to get projects going and meet upfront costs.

Alethea Warrington, senior campaigner at climate charity Possible, said: “Powering clean heat with clean, cheap, local energy is the ultimate win-win: lower bills, lower emissions and warm homes.

“Now the Government needs to remove the barriers stopping communities – and our climate – from benefiting from clean, secure and affordable heat.”

Rebecca Windemer, planning and communities lead at Regen and one of the report’s co-authors, said: “We know that we need to go much further and faster on clean heat to hit our net zero targets, and our report gives the Government the keys to a real solution.

“By innovating with wind, solar and clean heat technology, we can slash bills while cutting carbon.

“We desperately need policy change to enable communities to directly benefit from these projects.”

A Government spokesperson said the changes to policy made in September would pave the way for more onshore wind by allowing communities to bring forward proposals to councils.

And they ensure local authorities look at the views of the whole community rather than a small minority when considering a planning application.

“We recognise the role community groups play in tackling climate change, which is why we recently launched the £10 million Community Energy Fund to support local renewable project development,” they said.