The Agency has produced an environmental good practice guide aimed at designers, developers, installers, drillers and owners of GSHC schemes.

In the position statement, the Agency says: “We support the development of sustainable renewable energy whilst ensuring that appropriate measures are in place to protect the environment.

“Ground source heating and cooling (GSHC) systems can help to meet UK and Welsh Assembly Government renewable energy and greenhouse gas reduction targets.”

According to the Agency, GSHC systems can reduce energy bills by as much as £530 per year for a family household and carbon dioxide emissions by more than 5 tonnes per year, compared with an electric heating system.

Environment Agency research shows that there are around 12,000 ground source heat and cooling systems in the UK and it believes that this figure could increase to more than 300,000 systems by 2020.

The Environment Agency regulates the installation of open loop ground source heating and cooling systems, which take water from underground sources or rivers and discharge it back to the environment.

Closed loop systems, which consist of a closed piping system, do not require a permit, but clear guidance must be followed to minimise the risks of groundwater pollution.

Environment Agency chairman, Lord Chris Smith, said: “Renewable energy will play a vital role in cutting carbon emissions and the long-term protection of the environment. However, renewable technology must be sustainable.

“These new guidelines for ground source heating and cooling will ensure that appropriate measures are taken to protect the local environment.”

The Ground Source Heat Pump Association worked with the Environment Agency on the guide to ensure the information is consistent across the industry.

The Government estimates that ground source heating and cooling systems have the potential to provide up to 29% of total UK built environment heat demand by 2050.

Alison Brown

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie