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Kick-Starting the Decarbonisation of Heat

Heating our homes and businesses impacts on productivity, affects our health and, when done right, results in better quality of life and higher levels of comfort. Recent years have shown a greater policy and industry focus on heat, as the UK’s momentum in decarbonising increasing amounts of power supply drives forward other segments of industry. Unfortunately, there is still not enough progress to address the gaps evident in the Clean Growth Strategy, in terms of meeting the UK’s carbon targets. This year will see increased efforts across industry and government to begin to fill those gaps and lay the groundwork for a heat strategy in the early 2020s.

Experts across the energy industry have been in agreement for some time that there is no ‘silver bullet’ to decarbonising heat, leaving us with the, as of yet unanswered, question of what mixture of solutions will achieve a smooth transition to low carbon at lowest cost to consumers? The scene is now set for the UK to uncover the answers to that question.

Firstly, local and regional authorities, as well as devolved governments, seem ambitious and proactive in their vision for decarbonisation and would broadly welcome the opportunity, and the funding, to take more comprehensive steps to decarbonise heat in their respective regions. Secondly, the evidence base will continue to grow thanks to anticipated research from a wide range of organisations this year, including BEIS and the Committee on Climate Change. Thirdly, the range of options which have been rolled out to date and trials which will develop this year will provide proof of concept, consumer acceptance and fiscal viability for a range of low carbon business models.

Discourse on heat has, to date, focussed on that distant goal of decarbonisation by 2050, making the task seem distant and not a little overwhelming. A range of technical solutions for heat have now been rolled out by Energy UK members and others, accelerated by government’s efforts to enable innovation. This has resulted in an increasingly comprehensive information base across technical solutions providing low carbon heat, but there are still gaps to be addressed in how to take this rollout to a larger scale.

Large-scale trials of the decarbonisation of heat, incorporating both low carbon gasses and a range of alternative options, will enable the UK to identify a comprehensive evidence base revealing the challenges and opportunities from the transition. This includes identifying the potential for heating and cooling assets to play into system flexibility, the role of heat networks, consumer protections across solutions and unexpected costs or benefits of deployment.

Energy UK will continue to push for an increased focus on heat throughout 2018, beginning with the release of Kick-starting the Decarbonisation of Heat setting out the importance of large-scale trials, enabling regulations, sustainable incentives and attractive low carbon propositions for customers. Energy UK will continue to examining the range of options for these and a range of other transitioning areas of the energy system as the year goes on. Barbara Vest, Energy UK’s Director of Generation, spoke today about this wider work at Building an Energy Market Around the Consumer, a full-day conference held in Birmingham and jointly hosted by Energy UK, BEAMA and the Energy Systems Catapult . The event also featured speakers from BEIS, Ofgem and a range of industry voices, including Laura Sandys.

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