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GM to host world-first smart energy system pilot

Japanese and Greater Manchester partners have met in Wigan to finalise planning for a world-first retrofit project that will use low carbon heat and smart grid technologies to reduce energy demand.

Japanese and Greater Manchester partners have met in Wigan to finalise planning for a world-first retrofit project that will use low carbon heat and smart grid technologies to reduce energy demand.

The project will see 600 council homes in Greater Manchester retrofitted with air source heat pumps and connected to a remote smart grid to balance energy demand and supply. 

The heat pumps will compress and condense air from outside to generate heating with a much lower carbon footprint than gas-fired central heating, while the advanced ‘smart grid’ software will aggregate demand and deliver excess capacity back to the energy grid when needed. 

It is set to be the first time such technology has been used in a domestic setting.  

International collaboration

First announced in 2012, the project has been developed by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) and Japan’s Department of New Energy Development Organisation (NEDO), in collaboration with a range of partners, including the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC).

Also involved are Wigan and Leigh Housing, Northwards Housing, Six Town Housing and the respective councils of Wigan, Manchester and Leigh, along with Electricity Northwest, Hitachi, Daikin, the University of Manchester and Mizuho Bank.  

The pilot project is worth up to £20 million to the Greater Manchester economy and, if successful, could be rolled out across the region. 

Wigan Borough has been chosen to lead the experiment, with 300 of its council homes set to be the first to benefit.

‘Strategic goal’

The deal forms part of the region’s commitment to explore cleaner and greener energy supplies through the Greater Manchester Low Carbon Hub, an initiative established between GMCA and DECC.

Lord Peter Smith, chair of GMCA and leader of Wigan Council, said: “Keeping 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 companies and Electricity Northwest, we’ve pulled a winning team together to grapple with the challenge of retrofitting energy efficient heating into our housing stock.”