Former home of oil tycoon given green makeover by National Trust

A country house in Warwickshire that was once powered by 25,000 litres of oil every year is now fuelled by two wood-pellet boilers, saving £6,000 a year on energy bills and 55 tonnes of carbon emissions.

Former Shell chairman Lord Bearsted gifted the Upton House estate and its extensive art and porcelain collections to the National Trust in 1948. Photo: National Trust

Former Shell chairman Lord Bearsted gifted the Upton House estate and its extensive art and porcelain collections to the National Trust in 1948. Photo: National Trust

The Upton House estate, bestowed to the nation more than 60 years ago by former Shell chairman Lord Bearsted, is the latest in a line of historic sites to be given a clean energy renovation by the National Trust.

The Trust removed four oil boilers (and the associated risks of oil leaks) and replaced them with the new biomass boilers which are now heating the house along with site offices, a squash court gallery, a restaurant and a neighbouring cottage.

Upton House general manager Julie Smith said: “Installing the new heating system has met the energy needs of this wonderful country house. It took just eight weeks to install and clearly shows how we are committed to safeguarding our heritage and helping to protect the natural environment.”

Changing times

The site’s renewables project manager Ed Wood added: “The irony that the estate was owned by a family whose fortune was built on oil was not lost on us when we started our project to take Upton off this fossil fuel.

“In the past, oil was the most effective way to heat the estate. Times have changed and to lower our carbon emissions and meet our target, to generate 50% of all energy we use from renewable sources by 2020, we felt it important to change our energy source here.”

This is the first completed project of the National Trust’s £30m investment in renewable energy for some of its historic sites, as part of the charity’s overarching sustainability ambition - to reduce energy use by 20%, halve fossil fuel consumption and generate 50% of its energy from renewable sources, by 2020.

The National Trust believes the £30m renewable energy programme could save the organisation up to £4m on its energy costs each year. The funding is being invested in more than 40 new projects, with surplus electricity from the sites being sold to the grid to provide an additional source of income for the Trust.

RHI support

The National Trust’s renewable energy director Mike Hudson praised the UK Government’s financial support, in the form of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), in getting green energy schemes like this at Upton House off the ground.

“This is a great example of what support from the RHI scheme is enabling the Trust to do,” Hudson said. “Schemes like these cut carbon, promote local sustainable wood management and work in harmony with the natural and built environment. They work for the local environment and economy and support national energy and climate change ambitions.'

Chancellor George Osborne announced a reform of the RHI scheme - which would see funding cut by £700m - in his Spending Review last autumn. Reports released last week by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) concluded that the RHI has been ‘critical’ to decarbonising the UK’s heat sector.

National Trust at edie Live 2016

The National Trust will be present at the edie Live 2016 exhibition in Birmingham this May, with the charity's sustainability progress and ambitons discussed in sessions on the Energy Efficiency and Onsite Solutions stages.

edie Live 2016 aims to provide a holistic view of the sustainability industry all in one place, whether you're focusing on the strategy, operations or specifications for your organisation. The show will bring to life the major themes of the market, address the biggest challenges in the seminars and provide a showcase of leading suppliers for you to try before you buy.

Find out more and register to attend edie Live 2016 here

Luke Nicholls


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