Low-carbon heating is amongst the toughest challenges facing climate policy. Mike Hemsley, Senior Power Analyst at the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), summarises new insights on achieving near-zero emissions by 2050 from heating the UK’s buildings. How will we stay warm as the UK moves away from natural gas and towards low-carbon systems such as heat pumps or hydrogen? The CCC has continually identified the need to reduce emissions from the UK’s buildings – which made up 19% of the UK’s overall emissions in 2017 – in order to meet its decarbonisation targets. This means a combination of making existing and new properties more energy efficient, and finding a low-carbon heat source for 85% of UK households that currently use fossil-fuel based natural gas. These households currently emit around 2tCO2 per household per year – roughly equivalent to a return flight to Argentina – which represents around one tenth of the average UK household’s carbon footprint. The CCC recently set out its view on alternative pathways for decarbonising heating in its 2016 report, Next Steps for UK Heat Policy. A number of ‘low-regrets’ approaches feature consistently across the different pathways: energy efficiency across UK building stock, low-carbon heat networks in heat dense areas, low-carbon new buildings, and biomethane injection into the gas-grid. Heat pumps are a low-regrets option in over half of the four million homes not currently connected to the mains gas network, and can be supplemented with a mix of other technologies. The CCC plans to review the implications of the findings [of various reports] in our 2018 report on hydrogen, due to be published this November, as well as our future work on the sixth carbon budget, due in 2020.
Committee on Climate Change 10th Sept 2018 read more »