Occupiers of the new green homes will have no energy bills to pay for at least the first five years. This is estimated to be the equivalent of saving around £1,800 a year on energy bills compared to those on a standard variable tariff, based on current energy rates. The cost savings are due to the homes being fitted with green energy technologies including an air-source heat pump, a home battery, and roof-mounted solar panels.[i]
Bellway Homes, one of the UK’s largest housebuilding companies, is the first national housebuilder to join the partnership. Bellway is looking to implement Zero Bills homes in their future developments.
Octopus Energy’s Zero Bills homes Director, Michael Cottrell has said,
“Zero Bills is a complete game changer, and having one of the UK’s largest housebuilders on board to develop their first Zero Bills homes is a momentous occasion for sustainable living. With Bellway committing to this revolutionary scheme, we can provide even more homeowners with zero bills for five years, guaranteed. It means we can make green living the standard, not the exception.”[ii]
Bellway’s CEO, Jason Honeyman, has said,
“We are proud to be the first national housebuilder to partner with Octopus to deliver Zero Bills homes at scale. These homes will be at the cutting edge of sustainable design and will also save our customers thousands of pounds in energy costs as cost-of-living challenges persist across the country.”[iii]
In 2022, Octopus Energy started a partnership with modular housebuilder, Ilke Homes. The partnership launched at one of Ilke’s sites in Essex, where they claimed to deliver “the UK’s largest zero-carbon housing development”. The homes were to be equipped with much of the same technology as in the new scheme (air source heat pumps, solar panels, and battery storage), and were estimated to save households over £2,000 on energy per year, with Octopus Energy providing a bespoke tariff.[iv]
Bellway homes is building three Zero Bill homes at its Victoria Gate development in Stafford as part of Bellway’s Future Homes research project. The research project is trialling technologies that will be needed to comply with the Future Homes Standard (FHS). The FHS is a UK government initiative that will come into force in 2025. It requires new homes in England to reduce their carbon emissions by 75-80% by improving heating and hot water systems and reducing heat waste.[v] At the end of 2021, the government updated Parts F and L of the current Building Regulations to meet the specifications set out in the FHS 2025. Part F has introduced new standards for ventilation whilst Part L set out minimum energy efficiency performance targets, airtightness requirements and improved minimum insulation standards for buildings.[vi]
The three Zero Bill homes in Stafford will go on the market this December. In 2024, the Zero Bill homes pilot will be followed by 250 homes in Bedfordshire. It is hoped that other sites will follow.[vii]
The Future Home is an experimental eco home located within the Energy House 2.0 research facility at the University of Salford. Construction of the Future Home began in 2022, it was launched in January 2023, and testing began in Spring 2023 and will continue into 2024. Building materials and green technologies in the Future Home are tested and then data is collected and analysed by experts from Bellway and the University of Salford. This will identify best practices for storing solar energy at home, recovering heat from wastewater, placement and maximisation of air source heat pumps, other carbon-reducing technologies, and testing different heating systems.[viii]
The research facility can replicate over 95% of the world’s climatic conditions. Throughout the project, the Future Home will be exposed to temperatures between 40°C to -20°C, as well as wind, snow, solar radiation, and other weather conditions. Additionally, halfway through the project, the house will be retrofitted to compare the energy efficiency of double versus triple glazing, and ceiling- and wall-mounted infrared radiators versus underfloor heating.[ix]
Bellway’s Future Homes research project is also part of Bellway’s sustainability strategy, ‘Better with Bellway’. Part of the strategy is a commitment to reducing carbon emissions by setting Science-Based Targets (SBTs), designing homes to meet energy efficiency standards, and utilising green technologies.[x]
Energy efficiency (as targeted by the UK’s Building Regulations and Bellway’s Future Home) from smart homes is often seen to create a ‘rebound effect’ whereby when energy efficiency improves, energy demand may increase or just decrease less than anticipated.[xi]
A kind of rebound effect should also be seen as a possibility when looking at wider green technologies for the home that will save occupiers money, such as those technologies in the Zero Bills homes. The money saved by occupiers could be spent on other goods and services that have a significant carbon impact, thereby cancelling out the carbon saved from the Zero Bills homes. This is not to say that the smart Zero Bills homes are not positive news, but it is something to keep in mind.
Gemma recently graduated with a degree in International Development. She is currently studying for an MSc in Sustainable Urbanism, which examines urban planning and urban design through a sustainability lens. “I’m passionate about addressing sustainability challenges in a holistic and pragmatic way. Zero Carbon Academy's diverse range of services targets many of the areas that need support if we are to transition to a liveable future. I’m excited to see the impact that the Academy makes.”