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GSHP: The green tech even carbon sceptics will like

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The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Analysis Today on the environmental front: some news that ought to please most people, for a change. The government is being urged - by its own researchers - to get behind a home energy technology which could seriously cut into both carbon emissions and (if you don't care about those) energy bills and future gas imports from Russia.

We're not talking here about rubbish like rooftop windmills, photovoltaic panels in a north-European climate, on-building slime tanks etc - nor more practical but gas-hungry schemes such as home microgeneration. No, this one is a good idea.

The scheme in question is underground heat pumps. These machines work, as their name implies, much like any other heat pump - for instance a fridge or an air conditioner. Rather than sucking heat from inside a cupboard or building and dumping it into the air around, though, this kit would suck heat from the ground and dump it into a building's hot water system.

You still need electric power, of course, but the heat energy output is generally three or four times that required to run the pumps. This makes it cheaper than burning gas to make heat, even with today's fairly low gas prices. Naturally it's a lot cheaper than using grid electricity to make heat directly - as grid electricity is often made fairly inefficiently by burning gas in power stations to begin with.

So what's the catch?

Sure enough, there is one. The network of underground pipes needed to suck heat out of the Earth means you need some land next to or beneath your home, business etc which you can dig up. Often enough, this simply isn't practical - but if it is, putting in heat pipes should be a no-brainer.

An Environment Agency report issued this week agrees, and says that the government - as opposed to subsidising idiocies such as urban windmills - should be directing money towards underground heat pumps.

“Ground source heating is a rapidly growing technology that has the potential to produce at least 30 per cent of the country’s renewable heat needs, but it needs financial support in order to grow," says the Agency's Tony Grayling.

“We would like to see this technology given adequate financial support through the new renewable heat incentive to meet its full potential in the UK."

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