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A low carbon dash from gas kicks off in Wigan, through a pioneering partnership with Japan

Today, Japanese and Greater Manchester partners met in Wigan to plan reduced energy demand and cuts in carbon emissions through a radical retrofit of 600 local homes that brings together renewable energy technologies with advanced IT.

The project, a partnership between Greater Manchester’s Combined Authority (GMCA) and Japan’s New Energy Development Organisation (NEDO), will see energy demand in those areas taking part reduced and also balanced by creating what’s being dubbed a ‘smart community’.

Using advanced IT alongside the installed air source heat pumps and advanced user control panels, the project will aggregate demand and deliver capacity back to the energy grid when needed, whilst keeping homes comfortable for residents. The partners are aiming to flatten out the ‘peaks and troughs’ often seen in local energy demand whilst also helping switch homes from gas-fired central heating to renewable or electricity-based sources.

In addition to NEDO and GMCA, other partners in the £15-20 million project include the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC), Greater Manchester Low Carbon Hub, Wigan and Leigh Housing, Northwards Housing, Six Town Housing and the respective councils of Wigan, Manchester and Leigh. Also involved are Electricity Northwest, Hitachi, Daikin, the University of Manchester and Mizuho Bank.

At the heart of the project lies a technology known as air source heat pumps. Basically an air conditioning unit in reverse, the heat pump compresses and condenses heat from outside a building to produce space and water heating inside, with a radically reduced carbon footprint. Greater Manchester has a target to reduce CO2 emissions by 48% of by 2020 (compared to 1990 level). Currently domestic fuel demand accounts for around 12% of Greater Manchester’s total carbon footprint.

The NEDO partnership project is being seen as a pilot, with the potential to show the way forward for a similar retrofit programme for many more homes across the city region.

Lord Peter Smith, chair of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and leader of Wigan council, said:

“Keeping local residents warm and comfortable while cutting our carbon emissions is an important strategic goal for Greater Manchester and this partnership represents a real step forward, one that could offer a model for many more communities in the future.

“Combining advanced technologies from our Japanese partners with local academic expertise, as well as support from our housing associations and Electricity Northwest, we’ve pulled a winning team together to grapple with the challenge of retrofitting renewables into our housing stock.”