There is no obvious answer to the “hugely difficult” challenge of reducing Britain’s dependence on carbon-emitting heating systems, the energy regulator has warned. Dermot Nolan, chief executive of Ofgem, questioned whether households would be willing to accept green alternatives to gas boilers because some had proved reluctant to have smart meters installed. The bosses of two of Britain’s Big Six energy groups also questioned how the country would turn its heating system green. Iain Conn, chief executive of Centrica, the owner of British Gas, said the option of switching from natural gas to pure hydrogen was “highly unlikely” to work, while Keith Anderson, chief executive of Scottish Power, said technology to solve the challenge had yet to be invented. Burning natural gas for heating and cooking emits carbon dioxide, which causes global warming. About 80 per cent of British homes are heated by gas, and heating accounts for about a third of the country’s carbon emissions. Finding a way to decarbonise the heating system represents one of the biggest policy challenges facing any government if it is to hit climate change targets. The UK has committed to reducing carbon emissions by at least 80 per cent from 1990 levels by 2050. The two main options that have been proposed are the electrification of heating or the conversion of the gas grid to run on cleaner-burning gases such as hydrogen. Yesterday, Mr Nolan, 52, told the Aurora Spring Forum, a gathering in Oxford of key figures from the European energy industry, that he was “far more worried” about cutting emissions from heating than from the electricity or transport sectors. Mr Nolan said “significant and difficult decisions” lay ahead and that hydrogen-based technology “doesn’t potentially really exist at the moment” and would require huge changes such as the installation of new boilers in every home. Mr Conn, 56, said that he did not believe in the “mass use of pure hydrogen” because it was “highly unlikely to be practical”, although he suggested that lower amounts of the gas could be blended into the system. He said three years ago that the idea of electrifying all heating was “mad”. Yesterday, however, Mr Conn proposed that electric heat pumps would have a role to play and that British Gas would eventually end up installing them.
Times 20th March 2019 read more »