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Finger touching household thermostat

Globally, heating our homes and businesses accounts for nearly half of all energy consumption and in the UK 77% of our heating is produced using fossil fuels. Decarbonising heat is essential if targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions are to be met. Thanks to the work of Durham Energy Institute (DEI), we are at the forefront of research into how to achieve this.

The DEI will be exhibiting in the Green Zone at COP26 on Thursday 11th November which is a day focused on cities, regions and the built environment. They will be showcasing research from our University and partners, which is striving to decarbonise the heating and cooling of spaces including our homes and businesses.

Geothermal – the heat beneath our feet

We are a UK leader in research looking at the potential for geothermal energy to heat our homes. This innovative research is exploring whether water from abandoned coal mines could be a source of low carbon heat. 

Our Geothermal Energy from Mines and Solar-Geothermal heat project (GEMS) is investigating this in depth, looking at everything from the technical, regulatory and political aspects, through to financial and social considerations of what is needed to make this work.

Meanwhile we are supporting a ground-breaking project in South Tyneside which will draw geothermal energy from the former Hebburn Colliery and use this to heat council-owned buildings, including a residential tower block.

Net-zero research network

We are also leading the Network for Heating and Cooling Research to Enable a Net-Zero Carbon Future (H&C Zero Network), with partners, on behalf of UK Research and Innovation.

This project aims to maximise the impact of research in this area by bringing together researchers, technology developers, managers and policy makers.

The network is led and managed by DEI-fellows Dr Andrew Smallbone and Dr Janie Ling Chin respectively, both from our Engineering Department, whilst DEI Director Professor Jon Gluyas is a Co-investigator.

Seasonal solar energy storage

How to store solar energy in summer, so it can be used to heat homes and businesses in winter, is the focus of work led by Dr Zhiwei Ma, Professor Tony Roskilly and Dr Huashan Bao, of our Engineering department, in partnership with University of Chester.

Solar energy has the potential to provide electricity and heat without greenhouse gas emissions but in the UK only one per cent of the renewable heat from solar potential is used.

The team is developing a new system that can effectively store the abundant, but relatively low temperature UK solar heat in summer, and use this at the desired temperature for space and hot water heating in winter.

This three-year project could lead to systems able to provide heating with emissions that are approximately 92% and 85% lower than current gas boiler and electric heat pump technology.

Industrial waste heat

The UK industry emits substantial quantities of waste heat which if used elsewhere would significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from domestic and other building heating systems. 

DEI is working with industry to implement innovative heat systems which more effectively use heat within the industrial process, and enable heat to be exported to meet heat demands in the neighbouring area.

Find out more