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BEIS favours electrification for low carbon off-grid heat plans

Government has committed to a number of consultations in 2019 to set out clearer strategy on off-grid heating and supporting incentives to realise a move away from higher carbon fossil fuels

Electrification, supported by a focus on improved energy efficiency in homes, continues to offer the “greatest decarbonisation opportunity” for most off-grid buildings in the UK, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has said.

The comments were made in response to a call for evidence issued by the department earlier this year to set out a framework for delivering heat to off-grid buildings in the UK that meets wider national plans for lower carbon innovation.

BEIS said that the responses noted similarities to efforts within transport planning to end diesel and petrol car sales by 2040 as an example of the clear direction required for transforming off-grid heating.

A clear long-term framework concerning off-grid heating policy was now intended to be set out by government over the next year, along with related regulations, to help steer industry innovation.

BEIS said, “There was a clear view that this would allow industry to align their strategy and investment plans, and to drive forward innovation in technologies and business models.”

Revised timetable

The government’s response to the consultation also concluded that a shift away from relying on higher carbon fossil fuels could be realised at a much faster rate then predicted, at least according to industry.

BEIS said, “Respondents provided views on timing for an end to the installation of high carbon fossil fuels off-grid, which ranged from 2020 to 2050, with a three quarters majority taking the view that it could be easily delivered by 2030.”

“This aligns with the commitment set out in the Clean Growth Strategy, to ‘phase out the installation of high carbon forms of fossil fuel heating in new and existing homes and businesses off the gas grid during the 2020s, starting with new build’.”

BEIS added that over three quarters of respondents to its consultation believed that a successful switch would require concerted efforts from both private and public sector bodies.

It said in a consultation response, “Industry will play a vital role in this transition, for instance through investing in research and development, taking the lead in developing industry standards and codes of practice, product innovation, creating opportunities for installer training and raising the profile of low-carbon technologies to consumers, who may be supported through new and empowering business models for heat.”

The government added that it was committed to ensure a compressive policy framework was in place to support the transition though clearly defined standards. This commitment was also expected to lead to a revised approach of funding innovative new lower carbon technologies that is currently delivered through the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) programme.

The consultation’s conclusions and commitments to a wider number of consultations were welcomed by manufacturer NIBE as a means to clarify future support for low carbon heating in off grid buildings.

NIBE managing director Phil Hurley cited warnings from the independent committee on Climate Change that found a two-year increase in carbon emissions from buildings as an example of the need for fresh policy to reduce the environmental impact of heating in off-grid properties.

He said, “An important reason for this is that high carbon and polluting fossil fuels, like heating oil, have retained a significant market share for decades. Policy is important to break this vicious cycle and make clean technology, like heat pumps, more attractive by recognising their significant carbon reduction and health benefits.”

“Markets like Germany, where heat pumps in 2017 became the single most popular technology for domestic heating, are succeeding so the UK should also rise to the challenge’.”

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