Households in Britain could soon be producing their own electricity while making substantial savings on their home energy bills, thanks to a new initiative backed by British Gas, the country’s largest domestic energy supplier. This innovative technology could avoid the need to build new power stations and will also reduce pollution.
British Gas plans to promote central heating systems that also produce power for the home. It has just signed an agreement with MicroGen Energy Limited to sell a new range of Micro Combined Heat and Power (microCHP) units that are currently under development. These units are similar in size to normal domestic boilers and are designed to fit in the same space.
Using these new home power systems, the average home will save around £150 a year on household energy bills – and householders will be doing their bit for the environment. Each new system installed will reduce a home’s annual carbon dioxide emissions by about 1.5 tonnes and nitrous oxides emissions by 40% every year on average.
John Shears, Commercial Director at British Gas, said: “These new systems are the most exciting home energy development for years and will stimulate a real revolution in home comfort. This could herald the biggest change in British homes since the introduction of gas central heating in the 1960s and 70s.”
Steven Evans, Chief Executive Officer of MicroGen, said: “We are delighted at this commitment from Centrica and that the management of British Gas will be putting their marketing weight behind this technology. The prospect of our microCHP technology is already arousing a great deal of interest in the market and we are sure the benefits to UK consumers will be immense.”
For homeowners subject to power cuts, the new microCHP units can have an added benefit - guaranteed heat and electricity during a power cut. Power cuts, of course, not only affect electric appliances, but also prevent normal gas boilers from functioning. An optional feature on the microCHP unit allows a homeowner to both generate heat and power some vital appliances - valuable independence at a crucial time.
MicroGen has developed these units using the Stirling Engine – a technology invented in 1816 by Reverend Robert Stirling, a Church of Scotland minister. Applications of this technology are used in submarines and the US space programme. and similar technology has recently been introduced by LG Electronics for home refrigeration.
The new domestic size units are undergoing extensive testing and trialling, which will continue through 2003, with the first units being available for customers during 2004.