The Rural Community Energy Fund (RCEF) has provided a grant of £19,180 to examine the feasibility of developing a heat network in the village of Firle that can be powered by ground source heat pumps and a biomass boiler. Most residents of the village currently rely on kerosene oil to heat their homes, which is not only expensive but is also bad for the environment.

The feasibility study will consider installing solar panels where possible, as well as air source heat pumps for properties that cannot be connected to the heat network.

The project will be directed by the Firle Estate and will bring significant benefit to all homes and businesses in the village. The primary aims are:

  • Access to heat at a lower cost than using oil
  • Access to heat from a low or zero-carbon source
The land is owned by the Firle Estate, providing the freedom to deliver the best outcomes for the village. The Estates Manager is a keen environmentalist and supporter of innovative solutions for eliminating fossil fuels from the community’s energy supply.

    Map of Proposed Firle Heat Pipeline

    There are 190 homes, 6 farms, 2 pubs, one church, a car repair shop, an events management business and a tea room in the village.

    To create the 2km heat network, insulated pipes will be laid along The Street, as indicated by the yellow line in the map above. Renewable heat will be generated from a central biomass boiler to be located in the orange area. Firle Estate have identified sufficient woodchip stock from their own woodlands to provide fuel for this boiler.

    The feasibility study will be delivered by Brighton & Hove Energy Services Co-operative (BHESCo), who secured funding for the study on behalf of Firle Estate and who have been involved with the project since the beginning.

    Kayla Ente, the CEO and founder of BHESCo, said:

    “This is the beginning of a journey which we hope will see Firle become the first village in the country to go fossil fuel free. Developing a renewable heat network will put Firle on the map as a shining example of how to create clean, affordable energy for village residents throughout England”.
    Kayla Ente
    CEO & Founder of BHESCo

    Community Buy-In

    The success of the project is very much reliant on the support from local residents. BHESCo see this project as an incredibly exciting opportunity to make Firle self-reliant on its own locally generated renewable energy. The systems will be owned by the village and run in the interests of residents, eliminating the need to buy oil which we know is subject to unpredictable price changes.

    The community will also be given and opportunity to invest in the project which we expect to deliver a 5% annual return on investment.

    RCEF is a £15 million programme, delivered by Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) and jointly funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (DBEIS). It supports rural communities in England to develop renewable energy projects which provide economic and social benefits to the community.

    For more information on RCEF, visit