Transition to low-carbon heat

Meeting the 2050 targets means the UK energy system will need to transition to low-carbon heat. Changes will be needed to how we heat our homes, buildings and industry. Supplying natural gas or oil directly into homes will need to be replaced by a decarbonised gas or by electric heating or heat network.

But it is not a simple choice: each option has challenges that could limit their deployment. A combination of options is likely to be required; no one option may not dominate, as natural gas currently does. Demand reduction will be an essential part of a cost-effective transition.

The scale of the challenge should not be underestimated. The social aspects are as challenging as the technical. The capital investment means the cost of heating will rise during the transition.

Timing is crucial. Preparations need to begin now, to inform the long investment cycles over the next 30 years.

Several low-carbon heating options need to be pursued in parallel now. Early in 2020s, critical actions and decisions will need to be taken, by Government, to avoid closing-off options, undermining their potential, or increasing their costs.

  • Determining the extent to which hydrogen could be used to decarbonise the gas system, is critical. Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) will be essential.
  • Government support for trials of key technologies is needed now.
  • No and low-regrets options should be supported now.
  • High efficiency standards for new-buildings need to be set and enforced.
  • A robust retrofit energy efficiency programme for existing buildings.

Addressing the social aspects of the transition needs to be a priority and requires early engagement with the public, alongside the development and coordination of financial policies, incentives, regulations and business models.

  • Engagement with the public will be crucial and needs to start now.
  • A new narrative for heating and hot water, to recognise that costs will increase.
  • Energy efficiency should be pursued to reduce the costs.
  • Decide how to address the distributional impacts.
  • Prioritise new financing mechanisms and market structures.

A long-term strategy to manage the transition, which engages with the public and coordinates the diverse range of parties, with a clear decision-making framework. 

  • Integrate decisions on heat with transport, industry and power generation.
  • A heat delivery body to facilitate national, local and commercial decision making.
  • Early engagement with the public will be crucial – as will a clear narrative

Project Events

The project’s report was launched at an event in October 2017.  For more information, please contact Richard Heap.

A workshop on 18 July 2017 tested the analysis on the deployment potential and challenges of the various low-carbon heating options. Details of the workshop can be found here.

January 2017 ERP convened an industry workshop to explore the challenges of deploying heat pumps (see project outputs for a note of the meeting).

The low-carbon heat project was launched in October 2016  (more information is available on the event page).

Steering Group

  • Carl Arntzen, Bosch Thermotechology (Steering Group Chair)
  • Chris Jofeh, ARUP
  • Steven Cowan, Atkins
  • Olivia Absalom & Andy Davey, BEIS (observer)
  • Joe Cosier & Simon Messenger, Energy Saving Trust
  • Jeff Douglas, Energy Systems Catapult
  • Sarah Deasley, Frontier Economics
  • Mark Thompson, Innovate UK
  • Janet Mather, National Grid, Gas SO
  • Rufus Ford, SSE (seconded to BEIS)
  • Kathleen Robertson, Scottish Government
  • Keith MacLean, Independent / UKERC
  • Ron Loveland, Welsh Government
  • Amber Sharick, UKERC

Additional Sponsors

We would like to thank the following organisations for providing additional funding that allowed the project to run to completion. They also provided additional technical input and advice.

Energy Saving Trust
Innovate UK
Energy & Utilities Alliance EUA
Institution of Gas Engineers & Managers IGEM

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