Climate-change committee warns that new strategy is needed for UK heat policy
The Government needs a credible new strategy if greenhouse-gas emissions are to be largely eliminated by around 2050, according to the Committee on Climate Change in its report ‘Next steps for UK heat policy’ published last month (October 2016). Heating and hot water for UK buildings make up around 40% of our energy consumption and 20% of greenhouse-gas emissions, but ‘progress to date has stalled’, according to the report.
Among recommendations for immediate action [in the next decade] is for new buildings to be constructed so that they will not require retrofit in 15 years’ time. The recommendation is that ‘they should be highly energy efficient and designed to accommodate low-carbon heating from the start, meaning that it is possible to optimise the overall system efficiency and comfort at building level’.
The report also urges that energy efficiency should be improved across the existing building stock — with one objective being to make them more suitable for low-carbon heating in the future.
The widely differing levels of energy efficiency in existing buildings is noted, and it is suggested that in many cases the gap between the best and poor performing buildings could be reduced substantially by installing insulation or a new boiler.
There is little enthusiasm for injecting biomethane into the gas grid as a means of decarbonising supply without requiring changes from consumers. Its potential is said to be limited to around 5% of gas consumption.
The is much more enthusiasm for a large-scale shift to a hydrogen gas supply, which is ‘technically feasible for existing gas-distribution networks’.
District-heating schemes require a certain density of heat demand in order to be economic, which means they are suited to urban areas, new-build developments and some rural areas. They have the potential to use low-carbon heat sources.
Heat pumps are seen as the leading low-carbon option for buildings not connected to the gas grid, but with improved building efficiency being an essential part of effective heat-pump roll-out. The installation of around 200 000 heat pumps between 2015 and 2020 under the report’s scenarios is said to be consistent with RHI funding available to 2020.
The report concludes by stating that one of the principles that should develop the guidance of policy is a joined-up approach to energy efficiency and low-carbon heat that works across the building-stock and focuses on real-world performance where possible. ‘Emissions reductions can be achieved by improving energy efficiency and by shifting to low-carbon fuels.’