Heat energy “greatest decarbonisation challenge”

A new paper identifies that heat energy, which now accounts for over a third of the UK's carbon emissions, is the greatest decarbonisation challenge the UK faces to reach net zero.

Heat energy “greatest decarbonisation challenge”

The paper calls on national government and regional bodies to increase efforts to tackle carbon emissions from buildings and to create a consumer led transformation of heat provision.

Johnny Gowdy, director and paper co-author at energy market insight centre, Regen, said: “We need commitment to improve the fabric of the UK’s buildings which are bottom of the league in thermal insulation. That means getting to grips with zero carbon building standards, and a massive acceleration of energy efficiency measures, both to cut carbon emissions and to tackle fuel poverty.”

The paper identifies actions that need to be taken now to put the UK on track to achieve net zero well ahead of the government’s 2050 target, including:

  • Transforming domestic environmental levies, which account for around 21% of electricity bills, into a new fuel carbon levy
  • Increasing the market demand for efficient, low carbon, buildings through the housing market and rental sectors.

Gowdy said: “Fundamental changes are needed to ensure that consumers, tenants and building owners see value in shifting to low carbon solutions. These changes must be accompanied by measures to support those in fuel poverty and protect consumers from bill increases through greater energy efficiency and better heating solutions.”

Paper co-author, Mark Howard, said: “Heat is a challenge, but as an engineer I also see tremendous opportunities. Our paper highlights some great examples of technology innovation, new building designs and heating solutions which bring exciting opportunities for innovation, new skills and jobs as part of the wider shift to a low carbon economy.”

Wales & West Utilities energy strategy director, Chris Clarke, added: “We welcome this paper from Regen which sets out the challenges we face as a country in decarbonising heat and meeting Net Zero. As the paper makes clear, any solution must put energy customers first – and have their support.

“We’re pleased to see Regen acknowledge the regional approaches that will be needed to decarbonise heat, and the important role green gases like hydrogen and biomethane can play through the repurposing of the existing safe and reliable gas network.”

The paper also looks ahead at potential heat decarbonisation pathways including the widespread electrification of heat supply and the use of clean hydrogen as an alternative low carbon heating fuel. The right solution, the paper argues, is likely to be a combination of heating solutions depending on local and regional factors, all of which need to be underpinned by much higher level of energy efficiency.

The paper is available here.




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