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Satellites spot waste heat to save fuel

Britons who waste heat and energy by allowing leaks from their buildings face space-based satellite fuel poverty spotters.

LONDON, 14 November, 2018 − People in the United Kingdom who waste heat by failing to ensure their homes, offices and factories are leak-proof will soon have the prospect of spies in the sky to persuade them to mend their ways.

Many scientists agree that energy efficiency is the cheapest and quickest way to combat climate change, but pinpointing the buildings that are wasting most energy is difficult.

Currently buildings in the UK must be visited individually to check on their fuel use and to identify properties that could be insulated or have their heating systems updated to prevent fuel poverty.

But that is about to change. Satellite technology will make it possible to use heat mapping to pinpoint districts and even individual buildings that could be radically improved to save energy instead of wasting it.

“This exciting project is about harnessing the power of space . . . and delivering real change in terms of fuel poverty and carbon emissions”

The European Space Agency (ESA), the energy giant E.ON and the Earth observation specialist Astrosat are combining to use satellite imaging data to identify areas in the UK where energy efficiency improvements are most needed.

Part of their plan is to identify homes and districts where people cannot afford to insulate their homes and suffer fuel poverty as a result, so that the UK government-funded energy efficiency plan ECO can be used to help them.

UK Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark said: “This government-backed technology could boldly go where no technician in a van has gone before, with the potential to pinpoint households in fuel poverty or those at risk.

“Matched with government data, this heat-mapping technology could mean less time spent on the road and more time dedicated to upgrading homes through our £6bn [US$7.8bn] energy efficiency ECO scheme.”

Pinpointing the vulnerable

At the moment it is difficult to locate whole areas or communities that would benefit most from improvements, because residents may be wary of reporting themselves as vulnerable or in need of extra help.

The scheme is to be developed over the next 18 months in various cities in the UK to pinpoint these communities. If it is successful it will be introduced in other parts of Europe.

The idea is to upgrade housing stock and cut carbon emissions. Energy efficiency is one of the key policies of the European Union in trying to reach its climate change targets, but one of the most difficult to implement.

Using government data on deprived areas and information from housing associations and local authorities, researchers will be able to identify the people who will benefit most from better energy efficiency and so help to alleviate the problem of fuel poverty.

Big data

Michael Lewis, E.ON’s UK chief executive, said: “Delivered on the doorstep but driven by big data gathered from Earth orbit, our work with Astrosat, in collaboration with ESA, is about using the almost endless possibilities of space to deliver real benefits on the ground.

“This exciting project is about harnessing the power of space, alongside our experience working with local authorities and delivering real change in terms of fuel poverty and carbon emissions, to help reduce heat loss and unnecessary energy expenditure in regional areas across the UK.

“This is a UK trial at this stage, but all involved have the ambition to prove the benefits across countries and continents to help create a better tomorrow.”

The three partners believe that if the trial is successful the same technology can be used to identify areas suffering from air pollution, making it possible to ease traffic congestion in affected areas. − Climate News Network