Huhne unveils eco-home experiment

Energy Secretary Chris Huhne yesterday opened one of the UK’s largest developments of zero-carbon homes. Ten eco-homes have been built in Chalvey, Slough, in a project designed to understand the […]

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By Kelvin Ross

Energy Secretary Chris Huhne yesterday opened one of the UK’s largest developments of zero-carbon homes.

Ten eco-homes have been built in Chalvey, Slough, in a project designed to understand the changing role of the energy supplier in a low carbon society.

Over the next two years, this energy efficient community will be studied to better understand what customers will need as the UK moves to reduce its carbon emissions by 80% by 2050.

The development has been built by Scottish and Southern Energy, which supplies energy in England under the Southern Electric brand.

It is the first utility in the UK to build such a development and the company has invested over £3.5m in the project, named ‘Greenwatt Way’.

The site, which used to house an SSE office building, features rainwater harvesting, grey water recycling, triple glazed windows, enhanced insulation and its very own renewable heat hub. Installed are four different renewable heating sources including air- and ground-source heat pumps, a biomass boiler and solar thermal panels.

Renewable electricity is supplied by integrated solar photovoltaic tiles which entirely cover the homes’ roofs, with excess power being sold back to the grid.

The development, a mixture of two and three bedroom family homes and one bedroom flats, complies with ‘Code 6’ of the Code for Sustainable Homes – the highest possible standard. Tenants move in later this week and include staff from SSE, Slough Borough Council and local residents.

The main aim of the project is to study renewable energy generation and consumption, along with finding out what residents think about living in energy efficient zero-carbon homes. The findings will contribute to studies which SSE is carrying out in collaboration with the National House Builders Association, the Building Research Establishment and the University of Reading.

Mr Huhne said: “Slough’s project is a glimpse into the future of how we could all be living in years to come. Homes in the UK account for more than a quarter of the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions so saving energy makes sense for the planet as well as the householders. With feed-in-tariffs, the micro-generation strategy, smart meters and the ‘green deal’, sustainable living will transform our community, create green jobs, cut emissions and fuel bills.”

SSE’s chief executive Ian Marchant added: “The aim of this project for us is to understand how our role as an energy supplier is likely to change in the future, by actually building real homes for people and meeting their real energy needs. It has already proved invaluable for us as we have learned a significant amount during the construction phase alone, and we can prove that constructing a zero-carbon home to ‘Code 6’ standard is entirely possible. Little is known about what it’s like to live permanently in a zero-carbon home and so the real critical test starts now.”