Fuel cell combined heat and power, Hackney, East London
A couple from Hackney, London, on a low income were keen to upgrade the heating in their 100-year-old terraced house and reduce their impact on the environment.
A combination of grants covered the entire cost of a new Viessmann Vitovalor fuel cell boiler and solar panels, significantly lowering their carbon emissions, and reducing their energy bills by around 40%. They are now exporting excess electricity to the grid and receiving payments from their energy company.
Greening the built environment
Hackney Council in East London has declared a climate emergency and is committed to delivering net-zero emissions by 2040. Local residents are encouraged and supported to boost their household energy performance through the Hackney Green Homes project, which combines several government funding schemes with local investment.
It was this programme that enabled Hackney homeowner Karl, a self-employed furniture maker, to radically improve the energy efficiency of his three-bedroom end-of-terrace Edwardian home. Karl worked with energy-conservation and renewables specialists Happy Energy Solutions Ltd to design a solution that would achieve his green aspirations, reduce his dependence on the electricity grid and be financially viable given his low income.
Latest fuel cell technology
After reviewing various types of technologies with Happy Energy Solutions, Karl and his partner opted for a Viessmann Vitovalor PT2 fuel cell appliance which, from its location in the property’s garage, simultaneously generates electricity and heat for space heating and hot water, in an exceptionally efficient way. It was installed by Happy Energy Solutions, with the support of VitoEnergy.
The fuel cell uses cold fusion to extract hydrogen from natural mains gas; the same fuel source as domestic gas boilers. This hydrogen then bonds with oxygen in an exothermic reaction which in turn creates both electricity and hot water. The power generated – more than double the annual generation of a 4 kW solar PV installation – is sufficient to cover all the electricity demands of the household. Furthermore, because it is made from gas, it is around five times cheaper than electricity purchased from the grid. The heat, generated as a by-product of this reaction, meanwhile, is used for central heating and household hot water in a process that is far greener and around 30% more energy-efficient than a conventional gas boiler.
Prior to the installation, Karl’s home had an EPC rating of D63, with annual CO2 emissions of 4.4 tonnes. Switching to the Vitovalor has brought this down to just 0.7 tonnes, earning it a top-notch A101 EPC rating.
Solar panels have also now been installed at the property, meaning that far more electricity is generated than the household requires. The surplus is sold to the grid, offsetting the cost of mains gas.
With the help of Happy Energy Solutions, Karl was able to secure funding from several different sources, which together covered the entire cost of his new energy system. This was the first time these types of subsidies have been used to finance a fuel cell-based combined heat and power (CHP) installation. Funding from the Mayor of London’s Warmer Homes programme, and Hackney Council’s Green Homes project was combined with a grant paid by EDF under Ofgem’s Energy Company Obligation (ECO4) scheme, which is designed to help people on low incomes make their homes more energy efficient. A fourth grant was later secured via the Green Homes Grant Local Authority Delivery scheme to cover the cost of solar panels at the property.
Adrian Wright, CEO of Happy Energy Solutions said, “The future looks really bright for fuel cell heating technology. Contrary to preconceptions that greener energy sources may be unobtainable for the budgets and properties of most UK households, the Vitovalor is in fact cheaper to run than a gas boiler and comes with numerous additional efficiency benefits. The fact that so much power is now being generated at this property is also particularly noteworthy, particularly when you consider how expensive electricity is in London these days.”