Shadow chancellor visits expanding renewable energy company in Slough

Adrian Williams

Adrian Williams

The Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rachel Reeves, visited the new research and development centre for a large renewable energy supplier in Slough today (Thursday, July 21).

Octopus Energy focuses on the decarbonisation of heat. Its technology of choice is heat pumps – an alternative to gas boilers that compresses energy from the air to turn it to heat, using electricity.

The company powers about three million UK homes and businesses with green electricity.

This month, it also took over supply for one of the tens of failed energy companies – UK Energy Incubator Hub (UKEIH), which served 3,000 customers.

UKEIH is the 30th energy company to exit the market since last September. Octopus also took on 500,000 customers from Avro Energy last year, which went the same way.

Octopus made a decision to set up its £10million flagship training and R&D centre in Slough in April.

The site has two model houses for training its engineers – one built with ‘70s infrastructure and the other with 2000s, which the company says makes up for about 40 per cent of UK homes.

Octopus is set to train 1,000 engineers per year and is working on new and improved heating systems. The company is expanding its site and will be adding a warehouse soon.

It is also planning a weather chamber to test weather conditions from -20 to 40 degrees C.

Heat pumps currently cost about £10,000 a unit. Octopus is hoping to be able to bring the price down by scaling up production and optimising the installation process.

Visiting the Slough site, the Shadow Chancellor said she thought that the investment in homegrown renewables was key to reducing the price of electricity, getting to net zero and becoming less reliant on imported oil and gas – three things that are ‘absolutely essential.’

Ms Reeves added that she felt it ought to be a priority of Government to insulate the 19million homes that do not meet the basic energy performance level.

“That would save people hundreds of pounds every year,” she said. “It’s a total no brainer and yet the Government are not doing it and that makes no sense.”

The Government’s current plans for tackling the rise in energy caps and resulting increased cost of living include a £400 energy rebate.

This will be made from October this year, automatically applied to household energy bills.

In addition, a £650 payment will be made to eight million low-income households who receive Universal Credit, tax credits, pension credit and other benefits.

Other groups, such as those with disabilities and pensioners who receive the winter fuel payment, are set to receive additional financial aid.

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