Drastic increase in low carbon heating installation needed to reach net zero
Published June 30, 2021
There needs to be a 40-fold increase in the rate of installation of low carbon heating systems in UK homes if the government’s net zero commitment is to be met, a report has found.
Around 30 million homes will need to have low carbon heating installed in the next 30 years. At present only 26,000 a year are being installed. Modelling suggests 1.2 million a year will need to be installed by the end of the decade, a 40-fold increase.
“It has implications for business premises, not least because a significant proportion are still gas heated too. Admittedly, there are more options than in the domestic sector. Keeping things ticking over in business premises is easier, they aren’t subject to the same surge in demand for heating. This makes the use of measures such as heat pumps more attractive.”
Emissions from UK homes account for up to 40% of UK total emissions – with each home emitting 6 tonnes of carbon each year on average, according to the report from Energy Systems Catapult.
“Heat decarbonisation is one of the biggest energy topics facing the UK,” said Matthew Roberts, a sustainability consultant at Alfa Energy. “While the decarbonisation of power is going to happen one way or the other, heating is a different matter altogether, and hugely complicated by landlord and tenant issues. There is some movement in the right direction: in many cities one of the planning requirements now is to connect a new project to a District heating scheme. Whereas outside urban areas this is not usually the case. Meanwhile, people are still using gas: all boilers have to take 20 pc hydrogen according to EU laws. We are nowhere near that at moment. To get to decarbonisation, we will need to switch all boilers over as well as retrofit building fabric and insulation.”
Shell Energy, which commissioned the report, found customers want low carbon heating without compromising on cost, comfort or convenience. The vast majority (87%) of British consumers say a low carbon heating system would need to be ‘as or more’ effective at heating their home than traditional gas systems. Currently fewer than 1 in 10 homeowners (9%) plan to switch to low carbon heating when they replace their current boiler. In addition, 58% say they would need to break even, or even benefit financially, in the long run to make the switch.
The government’s heat strategy later this year may remove VAT on products such as home batteries and heat pumps. Removing VAT on heat pumps could save £10bn for households moving to this option. “While this applies mainly to the domestic sector,” Matthew Roberts added, “it has implications for business premises, not least because a significant proportion are still gas heated too. Admittedly, there are more options than in the domestic sector. Keeping things ticking over in business premises is easier, they aren’t subject to the same surge in demand for heating. This makes the use of measures such as heat pumps more attractive.”