The heat is on for new crowdfunding campaign

Ground source heat pump installer Rendesco has launched a £5.5m crowdfunding campaign to finance installations in retirement homes across the country.

The company is using the Triodos Bank to raise the money through a seven-year bond offer.

As part of the scheme, Rendesco will fully finance the heat pump installations for 100 retirement homes and then achieve a return on this investment through payments from the government’s non-domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme.

Environment Journal spoke to Rendesco’s managing director, Julian Sowerbutts (pictured above) about the new approach and what it could mean for carbon emissions and fuel poverty.

Why has Rendesco chosen go down the route of crowdfunding?

We chose the route of crowdfunding as it provided a way of raising the funds required to finance the project in one go. Using a crowdfunding platform, such as the one from Triodos Bank, was a way for Rendesco to reach the public and encourage them to connect with the ethical purpose of the project, whilst being rewarded with an attractive interest rate in return. Having discussed the idea with Triodos it was decided the Rendesco heat pump project would be of interest to their clients who would be the target audience. Triodos has over 50,000 clients interested in their ethical and sustainable ethos.

Do you think crowdfunding could become increasingly popular for this kind of project?

We have seen a marked increase in the number of renewable projects supported in this way and believe this will continue. The public perception of renewables has changed in the last five years, most people are now more aware and understand what solar panels do, what wind turbines are, what a heat pump does. People want to invest in projects that are making a difference and to have some transparency when it comes to where their money is going, which is what makes Triodos Bank different. It makes them feel good and if they can get a good return on their investment it is a win-win scenario.

Why have you chosen to target retirement homes with this project?

Retirement homes are ideal because they are new build projects, well built and insulated and ideal for a heat pump installation. The residents of retirement apartment blocks require a higher and more consistent level of heat. The use of a heat pump is considerably more economic than installing a gas or oil boiler. Running a heat pump costs in the region of 30% less than an equivalent gas boiler, 40% less than oil and up to 60% less than LPG.

Britain has entered the ‘age of the aged’. Over the next 10 years it is expected that one in seven Britons will be over 75 and as a result UK developers have responded by building blocks of retirement apartments in all market towns across the country. This surge of new buildings could potentially contribute to a rise in CO2 emissions, however by using heat pumps Rendesco aims to make a saving of 4.2m kg of CO2 per kWh when compared to mains gas from the 100 target sites.

What kind of benefits can heat pumps bring to retirement homes?

The heat pumps provide a cheaper way of heating a building. The residents can benefit from a reduction in running costs, whilst contributing to a reduction in CO2 emissions.

In general, what other benefits can ground source heat pumps bring in terms of tackling fuel poverty and efficiency?

The aim of the Rendesco project is to encourage the uptake of heat pumps in commercial properties. There is a misconception that heat pumps are unable to heat commercial buildings. This is not the case and the evidence is clear, where each block of apartments is comfortably provided with heating and hot water by drawing the heat from the ground. We do not need to use fossil fuels to heat our buildings. Space and water heating accounts for up to 70% of the energy used in our homes and as energy prices continue to rise more households will feel the squeeze when trying to pay their bills. With the use of a heat pump the costs are reduced whilst making the buildings more sustainable for future residents.

Should more be done to encourage the roll out of heat pumps in the UK?

Rendesco encourages commercial property developers to look at the these projects and realise they can include heat pumps in future developments. It is the responsibility of all architects and designers to consider the end user by reducing carbon emissions and making buildings more sustainable for future generations by including renewable technologies, such as heat pumps in the design.

What would you say to any organisation thinking of installing a heat pump?

Go for it. Many consultants will pour cold water on the idea of including a heat pump in a project because they do not fully understand the technology, or they do not want to change the way they have always worked. There are many examples of successful heat pump installations across the UK that prove the technology is efficient and effective.

Anyone considering installing a heat pump should talk to a company that specialises in this technology and is MCS accredited. It is vital that the system is designed correctly to ensure it’s efficiency. The government is promoting the use of renewables and will support heat pump installations through the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) that pays a tariff for every unit of heat generated for a period of 20 years. Nobody gets paid for producing heat when you burn fossil fuels.

To find out more about the crowd-funding campaign, visit the website.


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