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Report calls for Olympic-scale green heat delivery body

Policy Connect research has concluded that public interest in alternative lower carbon heats must be backed by a coordinated national investment and awareness programme

A lack of simple binary choices to help realise low to no carbon heat will require the formation of an ‘Olympic-style’ delivery body to coordinate the required national response from both government and industry, a new study has found.

The calls have been made by the Policy Connect thinktank as part of three years of research and study looking at potential options for green heat and the required changes required within energy networks to realise such a transformation.

Findings from the report, ‘Uncomfortable home truths – why Britain urgently needs a low carbon heat strategy’ identify the challenges posed by a need to shift away from a reliance on fossil fuel heating in a large majority of UK homes.

An estimated 27 million properties in the UK are primarily dependent on fossil fuels for heat, accounting for an estimated 13 per cent of the UK’s total carbon footprint at present.

Policy Connect concluded that there is no binary choice of technology that will exist to realise zero carbon heat, with viable options varying significantly due to factors such as location and housing type.

The report stated, “Innovations in data, smart controls, internet of things (IoT), hydrogen, biogas, electric heat, heat pumps, renewable, direct infrared, CHP and hybrid systems could all play a role.”

Ensuring sufficient investment to re-train and upskill heating specialists and boiler installers to better offer these different options is one of the core recommendations set in in the report to facilitate a switch over to lower carbon heat.

Policy connect has argued that a national delivery mechanism of a similar scale and scope to an Olympic Games delivery body should also be introduced to support and incentivise regional innovation.

Other core recommendations include calls for the publication of a low carbon heat roadmap by 2020 that should then be followed by a more comprehensive heating strategy for 2025 that the government has already committed to release.

These efforts should be backed with a national conversation around the requirements for green heat that are focused around consumer needs, according to Policy Connect.

The findings added that different projects around the country looking at alternative heating solutions could offer solid regional examples to decarbonise buildings that could be adopted in other similar environments.

Polling conducted by the thinktank as part of the report’s research found that consumers were open to new forms of heat, yet these same end users were found to be in need of sufficient independent advice on the options available to them.

The Policy Connect report added, “worryingly, our polling shows the vast majority MPs and the public don’t yet see heating a priority for climate policy (compared to climate action in other sectors like fracking and decarbonising transport)”

Cost was identified in the findings as another major issue to overcome for realising decarbonised heat, with the report saying that further innovation would be needed to scale up lower carbon heating solutions around the country.

Ian McCluskey, head of policy and technology with the Institution of Gas Engineers and Managers (IGEM) said that a variety of heating options were available to help the UK realise its legal commitment to eliminate or offset carbon emissions by 2050. However, Mr McCluskey said that all these options came with challenges.

He said,” Given the scale of the challenge, a significant effort is needed on all fronts. Success in transitioning to a low carbon future will require investment for training and skills ranging from technicians, design engineers, project managers, academia and industrial researchers.”

Political response

Alan Whitehead, the shadow minister for energy and climate change, said the report’s conclusions were a much-needed wake up call for politicians, house-builders, end users and industry on the importance of a long-erm policy framework for heat.

He said, “This report shows we have just five years to trial and scale new macro and micro solutions for our gas grid and home heating systems to keep costs and carbon down.”

Alan Brown, energy and transport spokesperson with the SNP,” called for social housing to be put at the front of efforts to trail new energy efficient and low carbon heating approaches and ensure fuel poor households were not excluded from industry innovation.

He said, “Policies must create a level playing field and kick-start market engagement to ensure reliable, equitable and affordable access to low carbon heating for our most vulnerable homes, across the country.”

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