Energy experts develop sustainable routes and technologies for UK’s zero-carbon heating and cooling future



Sustainable cooling experts from Heriot-Watt University are part of a project with the London South Bank University and Cranfield University and led by the University of Birmingham - highlighting ways in which the industry can become more competitive whilst heading towards zero-carbon.

These experts are creating a roadmap to help reach the UK’s 2050 net-zero carbon emissions target, whilst maintaining food security for consumers and economic opportunity for the country’s food industry.

Backed by £1.4 million of UKRI funding, the four-year Zero Emission Cold-Chain (ZECC) project will create the first detailed road map to allow the UK food cold chain industry to identify opportunities to reduce emissions.

The projects, announced today, Friday, 28 May, are supported by a £14.6 million investment from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), both part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)

They will explore a variety of different ways for the UK to transition to using efficient, decarbonised and sustainable technologies for heating and cooling buildings and for the food cold-chain.

ZECC project leader Toby Peters, Professor of Cold Economy at the University of Birmingham and Heriot-Watt University, commented: “Much of UK’s food is dependent on the cold food chain, which is also a significant contributor to the country’s energy demand. Our project is about thinking thermally and analysing engineering, energy resources, food quality and safety, finance and business aspects to crack the conundrum of sustainable decarbonisation of cooling and the cold-chain.

We’re bringing together world-leading researchers, industry, technology innovators and customers such as farmers and retailers to look at the whole system and map the opportunities and challenges to ensuring that the chain can support UK-wide Net Zero goals and decarbonise while also meeting demand and being resilient.”

Bing Xu, Associate Professor of the School of Social Sciences who is part of the project said: “We will propose and explore novel purpose-driven business and finance models that are viable and workable at community level, and empowering women and SMEs in agriculture and food industry.”

Professor Peters, added that the food cold chain is complex and lacks integration between sectors. Technological challenges exist, but many decarbonisation issues are techno-economic or behavioural. The project provides fresh analysis in a field yet to be researched from a system approach, also targeting food loss in line with the Sustainable Development Goals of United Nations (12.3).

UK Minister for Climate Change Lord Callanan said: “Securing a lasting move away from a reliance on fossil fuels for heating will allow thousands of households and businesses to feel the benefits of projects that are breaking new ground in making our villages, towns and cities cleaner places to live and work.”

Read the full announcement from UKRI -


Susan Kerr