Think Tank recommends decarbonising gas use

carbon emissions, decarbonising, heat pump

Improving the efficiency with which gas is used, reducing its consumption and decarbonising the gas itself have been put forward by the independent think tank Policy Exchange as substantially cheaper than the Government’s current heat strategy, which was developed by the DECC (Department of Energy & Climate Change) in 2012 and 2013. The Policy Exchange report ‘Too hot to handle’ is particularly critical of the focus on the strategy on electric heat pumps for decarbonised domestic heating.

In response to the Government’s heat strategy suggesting that heat pumps could provide more than 80% of domestic heating by 2050, Policy Exchange suggests that the cost of installing heat pumps in homes would be in the region of £200 billion. In addition, an investment of around £100 billion would be required to expand an upgrade the power system to expand and upgrade the power system.

A further 105 GW of electricity generation capacity would also be required, an increase of 175% above current peak demand, as well as a significant investment to reinforce the power distribution network.

One scenario proposed by Policy Exchange targets an 80% reduction in carbon emissions from domestic heating. It includes improving the thermal performance of the housing stock through improvements in insulation to reduce annual heat demand by 16%. Next is an increase in boiler efficiency by replacing non-condensing boilers with condensing boilers and gas-driven heat pumps. Next is to reduce the carbon intensity of gas with the use of biomethane and biopropane. Finally, a significant number of homes would be heated by electric heat pumps (six million), but to a far lesser extent than the DECC heat strategy, and heat networks.

Four million homes would be connected to heat networks.

The second scenario targets a 90% reduction in carbon emissions. It assumes halving the number of gas appliances by 2050, with the remaining gas appliances being gas heat pumps or hybrid gas/electric boilers. It also involves doubling the number of heat pumps from the six million of the first scenario to 12 million. There would also be a expansion of heat networks to nine million homes.

The second scenario assumes the carbon intensity of gas halves from 184 g/kWh today to 92 g/kWh in 2050. However, the much lower gas demand overall means that less decarbonised gas would be required.

Mike Foster, chief executive of Energy & Utilities Alliance, commented, ‘The vast majority of UK households are connected to the gas grid. Rather than rip out heating systems and make the grid obsolete, it makes sense to decarbonise the gas we use. All means to decarbonise will cost consumers, but it is imperative to keep these costs to a minimum. Previous policy direction did not do this. I hope this report helps the new Government set a new direction.’

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