Tower Hamlets Heat Decarbonisation Project

Local Gov't • Tower Hamlets

Leading the way on air source heat pump installation to reduce carbon emissions in the borough's top-emitting buildings.

  • Heat pump installed at a local children's centre.

Tower Hamlets Council's story

Tower Hamlets has an ambitious target to reach net-zero across the Council's estate by 2025. To achieve this, we must boost energy efficiency measures in our top-emitting buildings.

Every year we produce a greenhouse gas report, and this enabled us to highlight our top ten emitting buildings to identify initial targets for works. We selected four buildings from this list, all of which had boilers that were near to the end of their lives, and applied for a grant to replace these traditional gas systems with air-source heat pumps. Heat pumps don't produce any local emissions and these upgrades would have an immediate and significant impact on carbon production.

We were able to apply for half of the funding we needed from the Government to get this £1.2M project off the ground. The buildings we are upgrading include two children's centres, one office site, and one mixed-use building. The funding application was made at the beginning of 2021 and work started in spring. We have now finished works at both children's centres and are in the process of completing installation at the other two high-emitting sites.

This project was our first experience of installing air source heat pumps and we used it as a learning experience for our technical teams as well as a visible showcase for the latest energy-efficient technology. We believe the Council should lead the way on green technology adoption to show residents what is both possible and practical.

The new air source heat pumps will not only have a huge impact on carbon emissions, but they will also reduce energy bills significantly. The children's centres involved in this project will experience a saving of around £3,000 annually. Another important benefit is air quality – heat pumps do not produce onsite emissions and all of the sites we are working on will now experience cleaner air.

After the success of this initial round of upgrades, we are actively identifying new buildings where heat pumps can be adopted.

Useful learnings from Tower Hamlets Council

Project management matters – This complex project involved applying for government funding, dealing with complex supply chains (many of which were disrupted by the pandemic), and detailed risk and programme planning. Strong project management is essential to keeping this type of initiative moving.

Be open-minded about change – If you want to hit ambitious net-zero targets, you have to keep moving forward and looking at innovative ways to cut emissions. You should continually explore new technologies and keep an open mind as new energy-efficient solutions become available.

Tower Hamlets Council's metrics

Reduction in carbon emissions.
Reduction in energy bills.
Improvement in air quality.

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Tower Hamlets

Response to climate crisis





Local Gov't, 250 to 10,000 people

Shared by

Greater South East Net Zero Hub

Updated Feb, 2024

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