CommuniHeat is developing a roadmap for low-carbon heating solutions in rural communities through a pioneering demonstrator project in Barcombe.

1500 (People)
Barcombe has a population of approximately 1500 people
who are benefitting from this project – 700 houses


Our Aim

Creating a scalable model for a planned and coordinated approach to the transition to net-zero heating.

Our story

Ovesco is a community interest company that has been operating since 2007 in Sussex. They develop community-owned energy projects, helping local residents to take positive action on climate change, reduce their carbon footprint, and prepare for a more sustainable future. They are currently working with expert partners on CommuniHeat – a project that could help to accelerate the region’s journey to net-zero.

CommuniHeat is a pioneering initiative that brings together Ovesco and engineering practice Buro Happold with UK Power Networks and the people of Barcombe – a small East Sussex village – to expand our knowledge on the transition to low-carbon heating in a rural setting. This will not only empower the people of Barcombe to make sustainable changes for the future of their village; it will provide insights and energy-use data that will help us to plan how communities, towns, cities, and the wider electricity network can reach zero emissions.

Like many rural communities across the UK, Barcombe is largely dependent on oil heating. This is expensive, bad for the environment, inconvenient, and unpleasant to be around. A switch to heat pumps would help residents to save money, improve the reliability of their heating systems, and reduce emissions. But it’s vital that we understand how to implement these changes effectively, efficiently, and in a way that’s replicable across other communities. To understand this process, every stage of the transition has to be analysed and mapped.

Barcombe is an engaged and active community when it comes to sustainability, having been involved in a previous insulation scheme in 2012 alongside other projects to map energy usage. When Ovesco began to explore the transition to heat pumps for rural communities and how this will impact power networks, Barcombe was an ideal choice for a research and demonstrator project. Ovesco partnered with UK Power Networks and Buro Happold to launch CommuniHeat, securing funding from Ofgem’s Network Innovation Allowance.

The project began in December 2020 and is currently coming to the end of phase one. This phase has focused on gathering data on the village, including retrofitting housing stock, infrastructure for renewables, energy usage, heat loss, and UK Power Network’s grid. This information has been used to create a digital twin of the village which can bring together complex information, modelling various energy scenarios to monitor the results. This modeling will be used to make evidence-based recommendations on the most cost-efficient and effective ways to shape the transition from oil-fired heating. The project is also looking at other sustainable changes like community-owned solar PV panels and electric car charging points.

CommuniHeat is exploring everything from supply chains to cost reduction and funding opportunities in Barcombe. One of their early findings was that the role of a community coordinator will be vital to help people understand and engage with new technology. These coordinators will help to support people through the transition process, overcoming challengers and acting as ambassadors for sustainable change.

Ultimately, oil is not a sustainable way to heat homes in the years and decades to come. CommuniHeat – with help from the residents of Bracombe – is helping to identify a clear pathway to a more efficient and eco-conscious future.

Our advice

Become a collective –
You can achieve so much more as a community group, from the scope of your research, success in engaging partners, and even the power of bulk buying materials and technology. Community Energy South has a brilliant Pathways programme that can help you to mobilise and hosts lots of useful resources on their website:

Start now –
We are in the midst of a climate emergency. You don’t have time to wait, so hurry up and start making and influencing positive changes.

Our Metrics –
• Ongoing project but metrics will include potential carbon reduction, community engagement, and energy cost reduction.

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