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In light of the Government’s commitment to attaining Net-Zero by 2050, there is a clear and present requirement on commercial organisations, and particularly those with state connections, to actively demonstrate how they are addressing the challenge to reduce emissions. The clear agenda is to adhere to a course of action that curbs global greenhouse gas emissions so that temperature rise remains ideally below 1.5 degrees Celsius within the established timeframe.
Around 40% of UK greenhouse gas emissions are accounted for by heating, cooling, ventilation, the provision of hot water and lighting the built environment. In order to achieve climate-neutral building stock by 2050 organisations need expert support when it comes to implementing immediate and practical measures.
The impetus is to reduce construction impacts with whole life carbon assessments, and critically, reduce operational energy use, prioritising reduction in energy demand and consumption over all other measures. This means in-use energy consumption should be calculated and publicly disclosed on an annual basis, as laid out in the new, mandatory Streamline Energy & Carbon Reporting (SECR) regime. This is designed to raise awareness of energy efficiency, reduce bills, and save carbon by driving an increase in renewable energy supply and prioritising on-site renewable energy sources.
Hospitals, health centres and care homes will typically exhibit a continuous electrical demand alongside a significant, but varied, hot water and heating usage pattern. As well as addressing the need for sustainable, low emission technology, what cannot be ignored is the financial implications of these changes, whether in the form of new built facilities, or, and far more likely, the refurbishment of existing, yet ageing facilities. As a result, one of the most difficult challenges facing the healthcare estate’s facility or energy managers is obtaining a clear indication of the total cost of ownership so that operational savings and payback periods can be factored into development investments that will address emissions.
Increasing efficiency across the healthcare built environment to reduce emissions
Under the tenth draft of the Government’s Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP), released in July 2018, emissions related to electricity have dropped by more than 50%, a significant change that takes emissions down to 0.233kg CO₂/kWh. Before this substantial change, electricity was considered 2.4 times dirtier than gas, today that ratio has dropped to almost one to one.
These developments are obviously having a considerable impact on the mindset towards electricity as an energy source for heating and hot water to serve the built environment in the care sector. For a starter, new commercial builds with a small requirement for domestic hot water (DHW) load will benefit in a big way from installing any heat pump technology.
But for new builds exhibiting a large DHW load, hospitals being a prime example, then there remains a solid argument for employing a gas fired water heater. However, the smart approach is to also use a heat pump to create a hybrid system to pre-heat the DHW system. This gives a project considerable carbon advantage from the heat pump, because performance (COP) is higher when the output temp is 50 instead of 65, and very high when the ambient is warm. In addition, running costs are kept low by only heating water at the cost of gas, be it from the gas or from electric. This type of hybrid system approach also reduces the maximum available electric load the building needs, allowing for an incredibly carbon efficient hot water system, and in warmer weather reduces a buildings dependency on gas to nearly nothing. There are also benefits to be had from reducing grid demand at peak times, and then utilising the heat pump at its most efficient.
That said, there remains strong differences with regard to the expected share of renewable energy supply. Independent research clearly argues for a multi-dimensional approach with an energy mix consisting of renewable energy and gaseous fuels with a high share of renewable energies. Studies which are more “almost all electric" argue in favour of nearly complete dominance of the heat pump, while the technology-open scenarios predict large proportions of heat pumps, but also assume the use of gaseous fuels. In the short to mid-term this is more realistic and may remain so as new technology is introduced through 2030 to 2050.
For older commercial properties where a new heating system is required, but wider renovation is either not feasible or required, a hybrid system can control and avoid issues of project congestion when refurbishing, as the heat pump is used to supplement the pre-existing fossil-based heating system. This helps to save costs as existing boilers can continue to be operated on the current installed heat distribution, heat transfer and flue systems.
A hybrid heat pump/gas boiler system is able to reduce the maximum power consumption of a system by smartly balancing the heat generators for greater efficiencies and lower operational costs whilst guaranteeing high system temperatures to ensure the comfort of those still living or working in the building during refurbishment work. If the hybrid system is also equipped with buffer tank and domestic hot water tank the heat pump can achieve a high proportion of cover for space heating and DHW heating increasing the profitability of the system.
A hybrid heating system cannot only be controlled cost-effectively, including power generation operation, it can also be optimised for CO₂ emissions by selecting the optimal (ecological) heat generator whenever possible via an energy management system that incorporates smart metering.
Just as electricity is becoming greener, via an ever-increasing share of renewable energy, so too can the gaseous fuels which will contain larger shares of renewable energies, with expanded production and integration of ‘green’ hydrogen gas and other synthetic fuels.
A prime example of where gaseous fuels still have a real role to still play has been outlined by the Sustainable Development Unit (SDU) for NHS England and Public Health England. It ranked combined heat and power (CHP) as the third most efficient out of 35 proven measures that could achieve cost savings and reduce carbon emissions across trusts in the UK. Of the 18 energy saving measures reported, CHP was seen to provide the highest annual potential cost savings - £26.4m - enough to fund the salaries of more than 1,200 newly qualified registered nurses.
Even with emissions calculated at a much higher rate than Adveco's Totem m-CHP - which offers the lowest emissions available from any reciprocating engine and lower NOX emissions than a condensing gas boiler - the SDU still estimates CHP has the potential to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 3,750 tonnes per year, which equates to the environmental benefit of removing 1,250 cars from the road.
With almost 50 years of industry experience, Adveco remains the specialist provider of bespoke environmental systems to the health sector, partnering with customers in the NHS and private care to deliver more than 400 projects in the past decade - from bespoke packaged plant rooms, boiler and water heater projects to new m-CHP, solar thermal and now hybrid heat pump systems. Committed to partnering with its health care customers, Adveco provides invaluable support in the design, supply, commissioning and service of business-critical hot water, heating, hybrid and low carbon power systems. Since 1971 Adveco has been the distributor of A.O. Smith water heating products and is the exclusive provider of the TOTEM micro combined heat & power (CHP) unit which is supported by Adveco’s managed maintenance programmes for ensured, long term and efficient operation.
A practical, measured approach
Whilst the National Grid has already begun to outline potential future energy scenarios, right now we need to be considering the effect of lower carbon intensity electricity on renewable technologies, and the place for highly efficient gas powered systems with an emphasis on existing, as opposed to new builds.
From the systems already outlined it is clear there remains a strong argument for employing gas alongside renewables in new builds. When it comes to the refurbishing of existing building stock, that is where the greatest advances can be potentially made across the built environment. In such a scenario though, it is never going to be worthwhile for the building owner to put in a heat pump for preheat or as a standalone hot water source. From a renewables perspective it is going to be better to put in solar thermal. But when an existing building needs to be improved then it cannot be cost prohibitive for the owner. This means it needs governmental support which generally makes solar thermal cost optimal if the project site has the capability to support an installation.
As with all refurbishments, the physical limitations of a site will always drive or preclude certain options. Without doubt, gas infrastructure remains the most common for the provision of heating and DHW. A practical, open minded approach to driving cleaner heat through a mix of replacement gas and renewables is what will really progress us towards the 2028, and ultimately 2050 Net Zero targets while also delivering considerable benefits to those being cared for and working in these buildings.
Contact Adveco to discuss your project’s onsite power, heating and hot water needs.
Mid Cheshire NHS Trust’s ageing IT estate was causing significant problems. Amy Freeman, the Trust’s Associate Director of IT, identified a number of challenges that needed to be addressed when she joined the organisation in 2016.