Heating is a Hot Topic to Net-Zero

The UK’s heating sector is at the forefront of discussions regarding the country’s target of having a Net-Zero economy by 2050.


The Sustainable Energy Association (SEA) published a report that proposes the development of a regulatory framework on carbon intensity, to impose stricter emission limits per kilowatt-hour of heating provided.


Similarly, a recommendation by Energy Systems Catapult – based on an analysis for the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) – states that millions of UK households should switch to low-carbon heating before 2030 to meet the UK’s target deadline for a net-zero economy in 30 years.

Pushing for regulations


The verdict from a study by SEA proposes the implementation of laws to get the UK on track to meet the decarbonisation goal, which is set for 2050. These regulations will be the basis of heating-related measures, such as imposing progressive limits on the emissions brought about by heating systems.


The issue involves fossil fuels and the government’s commitment to phasing them out. The SEA recommends that the UK be taken off the gas grid within the next ten years to achieve zero-carbon heating.


The SEA says households need to turn to efficient, low-carbon heating – rather than wasteful heating systems and fossil fuel-based options – since newer methods are more adherent to modern emissions standards.


Additionally, the report envisions a long-term trajectory that grants manufacturers and investors the confidence to bank on low-carbon heating systems by scaling up investments. It further inspires innovation and incentivises installers.


SEA CEO Lesley Rudd said the body’s regulation proposals will deliver long-term surety to the energy industry and its investors, and will also assure the public that the government’s net-zero goals will be met.


Rudd insisted their proposal does not remove viable options for heating, but rather it develops a low-carbon fuel framework that will benefit consumers. However, she noted that regulations need to be paired up with financial incentives to promote low-carbon heating technologies that are already proven to be effective.

Switching to low-carbon heating


Non-profit organisation Energy Systems Catapult rendered its expertise in analysing data for the CCC regarding the transition to clean energy. The body believes that the average UK household will need to change their lifestyle – particularly when it comes to home heating systems, air travel, transport, and even their diet.


The report recommends local energy planning, and smart control systems that could help keep costs low and ensure an integrated approach to the net-zero goal. It also suggests replacing natural gas with electrified, energy-efficient technologies – such as hydrogen broilers, district heating, and heat pumps.


Also according to the report, from 2035 car sales would have to be limited to EV’s, or other zero-emission technologies like hydrogen. More cycling and walking, and public transport use would also be needed for the net-zero plan to work.


The bulk of the UK’s power generation needs to come from gas or nuclear sources, and other large-scale renewables. The organisation believes that embracing Carbon Capture, and Storage (CCUS) technologies along with renewable energy solutions could significantly reduce emissions. It will also enable households to add more flexibility, and provide additional energy back to the grid.


Energy Systems Catapult believes that the aviation and food sectors are highly unlikely to achieve net-zero by 2050 – which is why the body endorsed reducing the aviation industry’s growth, and changing dietary patterns through reducing dairy and meat consumption by 20% or more. These measures should help in meeting the net-zero target by cutting down on specific types of waste that worsens emissions from landfills.


With these sectors underperforming, the Government should still require the removal of carbon from the atmosphere to meet the 2050 target.


Philip New, CEO of Energy Systems Catapult, stated that UK households will have options for switching to low-carbon systems between now and 2050, citing the fifteen-year service life of the average gas boiler as an example. He views the tighter target as a driving force for homes to turn to low-carbon solutions as soon as possible.


Experts trust that replacing natural gas with either hydrogen, district heat networks or electric heat pumps will ensure that the full decarbonisation of the UK’s heating sector can be achieved.