Over the last two years, we have officially entered what many are calling the decisive decade on climate action. The UK, rising to meet the ever-looming target of becoming net-zero by 2050, will soon face many critical decisions in order to start eliminating greenhouse gas emissions. One of which will be how the country faces its gas heating problem, which currently accounts for just over one-third of the nation’s total carbon emissions.
Simply put, there is no pathway to net-zero for Great Britain that doesn’t include ending the use of gas as we know it, but… How do we go about changing the heating industry and where do we start? – in this article, we’ll dive into the detail.
Given the size of the UK gas grid, of which over 80% of our buildings are linked to, no single technology or energy vector can replace it entirely. Hence, the country, which has been investing widely in low-carbon heating innovations, will need a combination of clean electricity and carbon-free gas (hydrogen, bio-gas etc.) delivered by a range of enabling technologies such as heat pumps and networks. A retrofitting agenda, which will reduce the overall demand in the first place, will also help curb the energy transition.
With the UK already investing in this technology, the next decade will be about deciding the logistics of what goes best where in order to make for a smooth and equitable heating transition.
Low Carbon Heating
The race to replace gas in the UK is well and truly underway and the nationwide deployment of heat pumps is a widely discussed topic. Heat Pumps are already proving to be the most efficient and scalable low carbon option that is both market-ready and can respond to the urgency of climate change within this decade.
The UK has set a laudable target of installing 600,000 heat pumps per year by 2028, which many have criticised for being unrealistic, however, certain experts believe this goal is achievable and represents a pace that is in line with past transitions.
Many of these 600,000 heat pumps set to be installed by 2028 will be in new buildings, however up to half will need to be in existing homes. Retrofitting established buildings with heat pumps will provide thinking time in regard to seasonal performance (the prevention of overheating in the Summer and heating loss in the Winter) which has long been a cyclical problem in the industry used to obscure poor building efficiency.
Over the next decade, the end of gas and the energy transition will provide an ample opportunity, not only to improve energy performance within the built environment but to increase the industry’s knowledge and understanding of how the buildings operate.
To summarise, the threat of climate change is real and will be a catalyst for an untold level of change within the built industry. Heating and overheating are linked issues that must be tackled together, and we need to use the end of gas and the energy transition to better understand the built environment and implement lasting solutions to combat climate change.