Partnering to support Sainsbury’s environmental ambition


Securing a major investment for onsite renewables can be a hurdle for any business. This fully-funded lease arrangement with an in-built energy performance contract shows it doesn’t need to be. New technical and commercial developments proudly pioneered by British Gas and Geoscart establish a strong platform for broader adoption of Ground Source Heat Pumps in both new build and retrofit projects delivering a significant contribution to UK energy efficiency and sustainability objectives at a national scale.

Ground-source heating and cooling in supermarkets

Heating and cooling in buildings are two of the largest energy uses in the UK: and therefore a vital savings opportunity. Ground source heat pump systems have long been recognised as one of the most technically appealing solutions in this area. Combining the natural advantages of geothermal heat and water-cooling, the same infrastructure can supply all the thermal requirements in a network.

The ground acts like a massive thermal battery, storing the waste heat from cooling over summer, then re-extracting it via heat pumps for heating in winter. Ground source has the added benefit of being an electrical solution, thus avoiding any gas connection, and taking advantage of future decarbonisation in the electricity grid.

Supermarkets are an ideal beneficiary of this technology, due to their energy intensity from 24/7 refrigeration and high-traffic store heating. Sainsbury’s has pioneered the application of ground source in UK supermarkets, working in close cooperation with local thermal technology company, Geoscart.

Among the particular innovations brought by Geoscart is an enhanced borehole design for large installations, and the full integration of all heating and cooling loads across a store. These have enabled no-fuss retrofit even into actively trading stores, delivering energy savings of up to 30% of total site consumption and a 25% reduction in total carbon emissions. Ground source thermal exchange has widespread potential in both heating and cooling, with the clear opportunity to replicate this technology to other building types with similar demands.

Moreover, commercially, ground-source heat pumps benefit very favourably under the current Renewable Heat Incentive, with an average tariff of 7.2p per kWh of heat delivered; guaranteed by government for 20 years. This means that ground source is one of the most attractive commercial solutions for any building with a significant heating load.

Partnering for a full solution

So, technically, ground-source is a proven and reliable solution that delivers major savings in energy consumption, carbon and costs. Well then, why isn’t everyone doing it?

As it turns out, it is the very long-term nature of the solution that creates the principal hurdles to adoption. Something like ground source has an inherently long term investment horizon. It requires a major upfront capital investment, with a long payback period; which itself relies on correct design and installation as well as proper maintenance and operation. This is where it gets difficult for a buyer to line up all the internal stakeholders

Recognising this, we have come up with a ‘one-stop shop’ to address all parties’ concerns. How? By effective partnering on the supplier side to provide a seamless package; in short, making life as simple as possible for the client. We do the hard work, in terms of evaluating and mitigating the long term technology risks, to leave our clients to enjoy the benefits.

So with Sainsbury’s we first addressed the need for a big capital investment. In this instance, we partner with Macquarie Bank: its focus on long-term infrastructure finance makes them perfect for this type of installation. Geoscart, as the original technology supplier, still provides the design, installation and know-how.

Now, with British Gas’s strength, depth and experience, we are able to offer Sainsbury’s a combination of a fully-funded lease arrangement and an energy performance contract, over the entire duration of the system lifecycle of 15+ years. With a joined-up approach, and British Gas’s backing throughout the installed life of the system, all stakeholders’ concerns are addressed leaving the client free to sign up with real peace of mind.


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