Use Zero Carbon, Pay Zero Bills
In a world-first partnership, Octopus Energy and ilke Homes and Gresham House are paving the way for Net Zero housing in the UK - building homes that not only offer zero emissions, but zero energy bills too.
Year 2050, according to policy makers, will mark one of the most pivotal moments in history - the eradication of all carbon emissions from the UK economy. But we can’t change the system overnight, and with fossil fuels still playing such a key part in powering our homes and workplaces, a lot needs to happen to get us there. Today Net Zero can feel more like a futuristic buzzword than a doing word, with many left wondering what this monumental shift could possibly look like to the average person? And most importantly - how do we get there?
A shared determination to find these answers is what drove pioneering British tech firms Octopus Energy and ilke Homes to begin a world-first partnership - creating homes that have not just a zero-carbon footprint, but zero energy bills to pay too. Thanks to the innovation of renewable energy, A.I. and modern building technologies, they’ve used their shared experience in housing and renewable technologies to build the first few zero-bill homes in Essex, funded by Gresham House- a sustainable investment-focused asset manager - with many more to come across the country.
The six initial homes come equipped with an air source heat pump, solar panels and battery storage, and are powered without the need for gas or oil. These low-carbon technologies combine to provide free, clean energy round the clock, with Octopus Energy providing a bespoke ‘Zero Bills’ smart tariff, using advancements in flexibility to help the system work perfectly in tandem. This setup will allow residents to use power from their own solar panels on sunny days. Any surplus solar they sell will offset the cost of energy imported from the grid when it's cloudy - guaranteeing free energy bills all year round. Such is the magic of renewable energy: once the infrastructure is paid for, clean energy is abundant and completely cost-free. So when outdated carbon-emitting energy systems are taken out of the picture, it only makes sense that costly bills come down too.
Precision-engineered in a factory, the two-bedroom semi-detached houses are built off-site in modules and installed by ilke Homes on the initial Hope Green site. In order to ensure that less heat escapes in colder months and that energy use is kept to a minimum, they are incredibly well insulated; reinforced with high-performance building fabric and materials, making them super efficient and cosy all at the same time.
A day in the home of the future
Picture this: it’s mid-summer, the days are glorious and the solar panels have been saturated with sunshine - more than enough to charge your battery and power your home. Any excess green energy generated is exported back to the grid, compensating for the extra electricity you will use in the winter. The tech behind your bespoke tariff works in unison with the devices in your home, to ensure that any power generated is always used where it’s needed most - be that using / storing it, or supporting the National Grid or your local network operator to keep the power flowing. This 100% clean energy contributes to making the grid greener for everyone, reducing the need to burn fossil fuels.
Fast forward to December. You wake up on a chilly winters’ morning, stretch your legs and despite the icy rain falling outside, the house is already toasty. The heat pump has been syphoning energy from the air since the early hours of the morning, gently heating up your home. The sun may not be shining today, but the solar panels have generated enough power to fill your home battery. If the sun doesn’t show its face again when the battery runs low, your bespoke Octopus tariff will ensure that any renewable energy you need to use from the grid is completely free of charge. One less thing to worry about in the whirlwind of modern life.
A real world solution
To most, this probably sounds a little too good, and more importantly, too expensive to be true. But with demand for technologies like heat pumps and solar panels increasing, Octopus are finding financial solutions to make these devices realistic alternatives to powering the home. Companies like ilke Homes and Zedpod have started to explore accessibility by building zero-carbon homes as social housing and as on-site additional care accommodation for the NHS. So in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, it’s clear that Zero Carbon, Zero Bills could be an ideal solution for those struggling the most - something Octopus Energy is currently working hard to explore.
The clean heating revolution
In recent years, Octopus have made it their mission to go beyond supplying green energy, and also target the biggest carbon culprits within our existing homes. Heating constitutes 31% of a home’s carbon footprint, so by making air source heat pumps an affordable alternative, home decarbonisation becomes far more accessible.
Octopus Energy heat pump
Thanks to their cost reduction programme and the government's Boiler Upgrade Scheme, it’s now possible to offer heat pumps at a similar cost to a gas boiler for most houses. Whilst this won’t mean free bills for the average home, a heat pump can turn 1kWh electricity into up to 4kWh of heat - 4x more than even the most efficient gas, electric or oil boilers. This means using roughly 1/4 of the carbon emissions you would with a boiler, a figure that will fall to zero carbon emissions when the grid goes 100% green.
Heat pumps are super efficient. They use a small amount of electricity to take natural, low-level heat from the air outside and condense it to generate significantly more heat in your home. This and many of Octopus’ other innovations are helping to pave the way towards a net-zero reality, with ZERO homes demonstrating what it could look like to remove emissions completely from the household.
Greg Jackson, founder of Octopus Energy confirmed this, saying: “This breakthrough partnership debunks a long-standing myth – that cleaner energy will mean higher bills for consumers. Instead, people living in these homes won’t be paying for energy at all. This is yet another demonstration that clean energy is cheap energy, and the best answer to the fossil fuel crisis is accelerating the transition to renewables.”
Time to move in
Launched in July 2021, it’s still early days for ilke ZERO, but they aim to deliver thousands of operational zero-carbon homes per year for major investors, housing associations, and councils across the UK. The homes have already been trialled in London, Newcastle, Gateshead, Newark, and Sunderland, and are now ready to be rolled out en masse. The first homes will be ready for their new owners to move in this summer, and the other houses on the Hope Green site will be available to buy through SO Resi.
The end goal? For every new home in the UK to eventually be built to the Zero Carbon, Zero Bills spec. As this incredible technology becomes cheaper and more accessible, the responsibility falls on innovators like Octopus Energy and ilke Homes to demonstrate to both the government and developers how feasible and effective this option truly is - changing the way we live and making Net Zero a reality.
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