Does DECC's new Heat Strategy document deliver?

Does DECC's new Heat Strategy document deliver?

The Government published its lengthy Heat Strategy document that outlines how the UK heating landscape will change over the next few decades to 2050. The report has some excellent data about the way we currently heat our homes and businesses and looks at the issues that will be need to be solved if we are to first meet our 2020 carbon reduction goals and then how we remove all greenhouse gas emissions associated with heating by 2050.

Heating (for buildings and industrial processes) accounts for about 50% of all energy use in the UK and therefore about half of all carbon emissions. The vast majority of heat is provided by the burning of fossil fuels, predominantly natural gas. There are three major tasks ahead of us if we are to meet the carbon reduction goals the country has signed up to:

1. Reduce heating and cooling demand in buildings, both for the existing stock and for new buildings.

2. Decarbonise the heating and cooling of buildings and industrial processes through the widespread take up of low-carbon and renewable energy alternatives.

3. Make extensive use of heating networks to replace the individual boilers mostly used today.

DECC thinks that the first part of this (demand reduction) can be dealt with largely through the Green Deal policy which will encourage consumers and businesses to implement energy savings measures on existing properties by making low-cost loans available with the repayments being paid for from the energy cost savings made. While we welcome the aims of the Green Deal many in the renewables industry remain a little sceptical about how effective it will be in practice. Time will tell. New buildings will face increasingly high regulatory hurdles to drive down heating demand as we move to so-called zero-carbon housing and commercial buildings.

We agree that heat networks will need to be developed in most major towns and cities to meet our heating needs in the future. This market is very small in the UK today compared to Europe, mainly due to the easy availability of mains gas for most people. Putting in extensive heating networks is very expensive and the Government is not very clear on who is going to pay for all this infrastructure. Local Authorities are mentioned but where are they going to get the funding?

Having said all that this is a positive piece of work from DECC and gives us a useful framework for future discussions on the UK heating market. You can download a copy of the full report at: http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/meeting_energy/heat_strategy/heat_strategy