GSHPA to protect member interests as Environment Agency announces changes

The Ground Source Heat Pump Association (GSHPA) has welcomed the sentiment behind recent Environment Agency changes but will ‘work diligently to protect members interests’.

The association will participate in the regulatory process to protect sector growth.

Following the Environment Agency’s announcement of amendments to the Environmental Permitting Regulations (EPR) 1996 the GSHPA is actively engaging in the regulatory process to safeguard the impact on the ground source heating and cooling sector.

In an official statement issued by the GSHPA’s Council, the association acknowledges the importance of addressing environmental concerns and ensuring the responsible use of heat pump technology. These initial comments pertain specifically to closed-loop ground source heating and cooling systems, and the GSHPA anticipates further updates and amendments as additional information becomes available.

Effective from October 2nd, 2023, the “General Binding Rules” (GBR) will apply to closed-loop ground source heat pumps and are applicable solely to new systems implemented on or after the aforementioned date.

Key aspects include:

  1. System Integrity: The closed-loop system must be fully sealed to prevent leaks and contamination.
  2. Heat Release Threshold: Operators must ensure that the system does not release heat beyond a specified threshold. While the exact threshold is yet to be defined, it may align with Schedule 3 of the EPR Regs 2016 for open-loop systems. This threshold aims to prevent undue warming of groundwater.
  3. Proximity Restrictions: Closed-loop systems should not be placed adjacent to septic tanks or cesspits, within the inner zone of a source protection zone (SPZ 1), within 250 meters of protected sites (e.g., SSSI) or ancient woodland (with some exceptions), within 50 meters of a well, spring, or borehole supplying water for domestic or food production.
  4. Equipment Standards: All equipment used in ground source heat pump systems must comply with British Standards and Ground Source Heat Pump Association Standards.
  5. Decommissioning Safeguards: Operators must ensure that the eventual decommissioning of these systems does not pose a risk of pollution.

While the GSHPA anticipates that the number of systems impacted by these regulations will be small, the association is committed to working diligently to ensure that where Environmental Permitting Regulations do apply, the process is as simple and manageable as possible.

Protecting sector growth

Deviations from the GBR necessitate the application of a Bespoke Permit from the Environment Agency before drilling can commence. It is worth noting that the Environment Agency plans to engage with stakeholders regarding these regulations, although specific dates for these engagements have not yet been published at this time.

The GSHPA remains dedicated to fostering sustainable and environmentally responsible practices within the ground source heating and cooling sector. While participating in the regulatory process, the association will work diligently to protect the interests of its members and ensure the continued growth of this vital industry.