Renewable energy guidance for churches

Energy can be both where a church uses the most natural resources and where it spends the most money

Moving to 'green energy' is one of the most important steps your church can take - and can be done economically. However, given the issues in the energy market right now, we would not recommend that you switch from your current supplier at the moment. Indeed, the Parish Buying Green Energy Basket, is closed to new entrants, and the Big Clean Switch, is not recommending that people switch at present. We are monitoring the situation. 

Options for switching

Imagine if every church in the diocese were on a renewable electricity tariff. It's our hope that by 2025, this won't be something for the imagination but a reality!

There are currently a number of options for a church that wants to switch to a renewable tariff. Some churches switch by directly approaching providers. If you do this, we would recommend switching to a provider that meets the criteria of The Big Clean Switch (if you scroll down the page, you can see the providers that meet their criteria).

The Church of England has also created the Parish Buying website to provide churches access to negotiated discounts and contracts. Parish Buying's most popular product is the Energy Basket, which uses the bulk buying power of the Church to obtain competitive prices.

The Energy Basket is the biggest energy buying scheme for churches in the country, and has been consistently providing significant savings to thousands of churches. 100% of the electricity in the Energy Basket is green, all from UK-based renewable sources. The provider, however, is Total Gas and Power - whose parent company Total is involved in some controversial projects in Southern Africa and Myanmar.

We would normally recommend that all churches switch: the mechanism churches use to do so will vary depending on their needs and priorities. If you'd like to discuss any of the questions involved, email us at

Note on rate of VAT

Irrespective of which company supplies your energy, as a church undertaking charitable activities, you should be eligible for exemption from the Climate Change Levy and also benefit from a reduced rate of VAT (currently 5%). Do check your bills to ensure this is the case, and if not request a VAT declaration certificate from your energy supplier for you to complete and return to them.

For individuals...

The Diocese of Oxford has its own Big Clean Switch landing page for individuals, where the money raised enables more church energy audit implementation grants.

Your church and green energy

Your church and woodfuel

Burning wood releases heat which can be used to heat buildings and provide hot water.

Wood is the most common form of renewable heating in the UK, with a million tonnes of wood being used, mostly on log fires and log burning stoves.

There are now a range of well proven wood fuel based technologies available to run central heating systems. These are generally referred to as biomass boilers. Biomass has a wide definition, but in heating systems the most commonly used biomass is wood – in the form of logs, pellets or chips.

Things to consider

There are a number of considerations that need to be addressed, which may rule biomass out as a suitable option.

  • Concerns about air quality and the generation of pollutants;
  • Whether you have space for a large boiler and wood storage nearby - and how accessible these spaces are;
  • If you have a sustainable source of fuel, chips or pellets (Forest Research provide information including suppliers);
  • The DAC and any other permissions needed;
  • The costs (including fuel storage and delivery).

Forest Research has a useful guide to carrying out a feasibility study. A couple of churches which have biomass boilers are St Michael and All Angels Church, Withington, and St Paul's Church, Gulworthy Cross.

The Church of England Environment Programme webinars

The national series of webinars on getting to net zero contains helpful information on a range of topics, including whether or not to replace your existing heating system and choosing the best heating system for your church (starts at six minutes in). 

These will help you assess the suitability of options for your church and provides a list of things to consider as you develop a project. The Church of England also have a page of advice for churches on renewable energy, including biomass.

Further advice on woodfuel

You might find it useful to contact the Oxfordshire Woodfuel Programme who provide advice and support in this area.

The Energy Saving Trust provides lots of information on renewable energy, including woodfuel. Forest Research have a guide to medium-scale woodchip and pellet systems.  

Your church and solar PV

Solar electricity systems capture the sun's energy using photovoltaic (or PV) cells.

PV cells convert the sunlight into electricity, which can be used to run appliances, lighting and electric heating systems. Solar Photovoltaic technology potentially offers churches an opportunity to reduce their carbon footprint and energy bills.

Solar PV panels and the Diocese of Oxford

The Diocese of Oxford has installed solar photovoltaic (PV) panels on dozens of properties, mainly parsonage houses, across the diocese.

A number of parishes, including those with grade listed buildings, have installed solar PV on their roofs.

These include:

Your church and solar PV 

The Church of England Environment Programme has produced advice for churches exploring solar PV:

  • A webinar on solar PV provides an introduction to solar PV panel technology, its applications, usage and on-going benefits that accrue to system owners. It includes the steps involved in developing a Solar PV project from assessment, survey, technical & electrical engineering design, battery storage options, council planning & DAC application and approval processes, and the installation process, testing, commissioning & certification, on-going maintenance, and funding through the Smart Export Guarantee Scheme.
  • Church of England renewables webpage, including solar PV.
  • Case studies of churches which have installed solar PV.

English Heritage has a webpage on Climate Change and Places of Worship that includes guidelines on solar PV and places of worship.

Your church and heat pumps

Heat pumps offer a method of heating buildings in an efficient way using electricity.

Combined with electricity generated from renewable sources, this means church buildings could reduce their carbon footprint and save money through reduced bills.

Your church and heat pumps

The Church of England Environment Programme runs a series of webinars on getting to net zero.

The webinar looks at the basics of heat pumps (mainly air source and ground source heat pumps). It discusses their use, where heat pumps work well, and how to make sure their use is optimised. It also looks at some of the common problems that occur and give a rough indication of costs for church installations.

The Church of England Environment Programme renewables webpage also includes information on heat pumps and provides a general guide to church heating.

While, Cosy Homes Oxfordshire's webinar on heat pumps is aimed at domestic heating, it contains much useful information - and if you're considering heat pumps, it's worth a look.

One key point that all experts on heat pumps make is that it is important to improve the energy efficiency of your building before you install the heat pump, so that it will be able to perform to the best of its capacity. Find out more via the EcoHub.

Diocesan churches with heat pumps

Churches in our diocese that are using heat pumps include:

We also have a few churches considering Water Source Heat Pumps. Contact us for more information.

Further advice

The Energy Saving Trust also provides lots of information on both air-source and ground-source heat pumps:

Back to Environmental Action

Page last updated: Wednesday 1st March 2023 10:18 AM

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