Industry welcomes ambition but calls for support for all technologies to reach targets
The Committee on Climate Change report setting out recommendations for significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions to reach ‘net zero’ has drawn a predictably strong and varied reaction from the HVAC industry.
Representing the gas industry, umbrella group the Energy and Utilities Alliance, EUA, called on policymakers to legislate for ‘green gas-compatible’ boilers, saying it would be ‘crazy’ to drop gas technology in the quest for low carbon.
The heat pump community, meanwhile, gave a warm welcome to the CCC calls for a ramp-up of existing low-carbon technology.
The UK Green Building Council, which released a Net Zero framework in anticipation of the report – see attached story – welcomed the findings. Julie Hirigoyen, chief executive said: “Today’s report marks a watershed moment in our efforts to tackle climate change. The UK must take responsibility as a global leader to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 and the building sector has a crucial role to play in this transition. According to WorldGBC, achieving this will require all new buildings to be net zero carbon by 2030 and all existing ones by 2050 – which will require outstanding levels of energy efficiency alongside zero carbon electricity and heat supplies.”
She said: “UKGBC is busy galvanising the industry, having launched a net zero carbon buildings framework earlier this week which has already been warmly received by many businesses in the sector. But this ambitious objective can only be achieved with the help of strong policy drivers. The Government must urgently confirm the details underpinning the Future Homes Standard for new homes in 2025, along with similar standards for non-domestic buildings. Simultaneously, a co-ordinated national infrastructure programme for energy efficiency and heat must be established to improve our existing buildings and minimise costs of the transition for householders.”
CIBSE technical director Hywel Davies called the report ‘a wake-up call for building services,’ which provides a fresh understanding of the potential for the UK to achieve deep emissions reductions and reappraises the costs and benefits to the UK economy of doing so.
He noted that the report sets out that the technologies and approaches that will deliver net-zero are now understood and available to be implemented - albeit “with strong leadership from government” as a requirement.
But he noted that the CCC emphasises greater urgency for this to happen.
Mr Davies said: “This really is a wake-up call for the building services sector: we need to take a serious look at how we can deliver effective low or zero carbon heating at scale, which is essential to meeting a zero carbon target, rather than the current 80 per cent reductions.”
Mr Davies also underlined the CCC’s estimate of how much it will cost to provide widescale deployment of low carbon heating in homes by 2030 - a massive £15 billion a year, whereas less than £100 million was funded by government in 2018. The CCC has called on the Treasury to review funding, drawing parallels with the cost of moving to electric vehicles.
Mike Foster, the EUA’s chief executive, called for the government to see sense on gas: “The gas boiler is not the enemy in the fight against climate change but an ally. It’s the use of methane that releases carbon, and that needs to be phased out. Using low or zero carbon gas in our homes – such as biomethane or hydrogen – will keep our homes warm; meet our cooking needs and keep bills down, as well as saving the planet. The gas infrastructure is already in place for nearly 9 out of 10 homes, through our world-leading gas network. What Government should do is to legislate for green gas compatible boilers, to replace existing stock. The products are already being tested, just waiting for the go ahead. It would be simply crazy to call for an end to a product that holds the key to solving a global challenge. More so, if the alternative is to go backwards to expensive and impractical electric storage heaters.”
In the electrification corner, the Heat Pump Association’s chairman Graham Wright offered the HPA’s ‘wholehearted support for the report’s recognition that urgent action is required. He said: “Momentum is now gathering among the public, acknowledging the need to change the way we heat our buildings and, as highlighted in the report, known technologies, such as heat pumps, offer a clear solution for this.”
He added: “Heat pumps offer an extensive opportunity to reduce the UK’s emissions, as well as helping to address other policy issues such as fuel poverty and air quality. The Future Homes standard set to be introduced in 2025, and supported within this report, represents the ‘low-hanging fruit’ of heating in new builds, which, in addition to those properties off the gas grid, should be the immediate focus for the Government.”
Bean Beanland, Chairman of the Ground Source Heat Pump Association said:
“Ground source heat pumps are a proven, efficient and low carbon technology that can deliver heating to households and businesses at the lowest operating cost. A heat pump deployed today is progressively lower in carbon emissions over its lifecycle as the electricity grid is decarbonised further. Ground source technology is already delivering significant heating cost benefits to thousands of tenants, having been recognised by Housing Associations and social landlords as a powerful weapon in the fight against fuel poverty.”
Mr Beanland added: “The nocturnal temperature stability of the in-ground asset also provides for beneficial load shifting opportunities that other technologies cannot match. This allows owners of ground source to consider adding thermal storage to take advantage of agile electricity tariffs where, under the current generation mix, low cost overnight electricity broadly equates to the lowest carbon factor electricity.”
He added that there were wider economic benefits from GSHPs: “Ground-source ground arrays are infrastructural assets of national importance and value. Their very nature strengthens the country’s fuel security by lessening the need for fuel imports, and they are predominantly deployed using UK labour. To accelerate heat pump deployment across the country, we want to work with Government and other parts of industry to improve and monitor standards to ensure the strongest possible consumer confidence and protection, and to provide high quality transition training for existing conventional heating sector technicians to both protect jobs and to meet the uplift in market demand.”
The oil industry also believes that it can be a part of the net zero infrastructure. Oftec chief executive Paul Rose said: “OFTEC is wholly committed to the decarbonisation agenda and since the announcement of the Clean Growth Strategy in October 2017, we have been working with industry and government to research and develop plans for a phased migration of oil-using homes across the UK from kerosene to 100 per cent low carbon biofuel. Given the demanding challenges of increasing capacity and decarbonising electricity generation, we believe the use of biofuels presents a significant opportunity to make progress in the difficult off-gas grid heating sector, while limiting adverse impacts on consumers. Following careful analysis of decarbonisation pathways utilising biofuels, OFTEC confidently believes our sector can contribute to net zero emissions from heat ahead of 2050. Before we can act, we need government to provide the policy framework necessary to support investment…”
Andy Bradley, director of consultancy, Delta-ee applauded the policy ambition in the new report:
“This is the level of ambition and leadership that is needed from policy makers. Technology already exists to achieve decarbonisation targets in the UK, the challenge now is breaking down the barriers around cost, regulation, customer adoption and supply chain capabilities…It’s particularly interesting to see the CCC recognising hydrogen within the context of low carbon gas supply. Our research identifies there is no silver bullet solution to heat: electrification, hydrogen, biomethane and district heating all have a role to play. As a result, heat policy is particularly challenging. However, the government and policy makers must make heat their number one priority.”
But while welcoming the targets, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers stressed that the technology approach should be carefully considered. Dr Jenifer Baxter, Head of Engineering said:
“We know that many technologies exist that can speed up the reduction in GHG emissions, but technologies that are clean are not always pollution-free themselves. Decisions on which technologies to support should be based on the outputs the technology brings and the full life cycle analysis - they should not be based on ideology or popularity. In order to deliver long term change, it is important that we ensure that our new low-carbon lives are a true improvement on the current infrastructure…Achieving UK net zero emissions will require every tool at our disposal…”