Lord Deben chides politicians for failing to act on decarbonisation of heat

Heating and hot water account for around 15% of the UK's overall carbon footprint

Lord Deben, chair of the Committee on Climate Change, told a conference this week that all three major parties were approaching the issue too “delicately”.

The Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats have all committed to cutting carbon emissions to net-zero, albeit by different dates.

But all three manifestos have been criticised for containing insufficient detail about short term plans to cut emissions from heating which, along with transport, is widely reckoned to be the biggest challenge facing decarbonisation. Heating and hot water account for around 15% of the UK’s overall carbon footprint, with the nation currently off-track to meet a key target of ensuring 12% of heat is generated using renewables by 2020. 

Speaking at a conference on heat networks, organised by Westminster Forum, Lord Deben said: “It’s not enough and it’s not fast enough and it’s not right enough.

“We don’t have the degree of urgency that we need to have. We are not where we ought to be.”

As an example of the kind of progress that is needed, he said that “nobody” should be developing new homes without “appropriate”, low-carbon solutions to heating in their plans.

But the peer cautioned that the right approach for the government is not to step in and deliver solutions itself but instead to create the conditions for the market to develop them, as it did with the Contacts for Difference regime, which has stimulated the growth of the offshore wind industry.

“We have to do things like that: this isn’t a cottage industry.

“We need a very much faster approach and very much more urgent attention.

“This is much more urgent than we thought and will be forced upon us because we only have ten years before we have an irreversible change that we don’t know how to deal with.

“If we don’t get it right, we will still be talking about this in ten years time and frankly it will be too late.”

But he expressed confidence that a way will be found to produce hydrogen, which could provide a low carbon substitute for natural gas in heating systems, cheaper than is currently possible.

Andrew Cripps, regional director of sustainability at consultancy AECOM, warned that the transition to a lower-carbon heating system is likely to lead to higher bills

“We may have to face up to the fact that heat may be needed to become more expensive in order to hit these (decarbonisation) targets.”

But he said that by rolling out more heat network schemes, expertise can be built up that will eventually lead to lower costs.

Cripps also told delegates that the next round of the business, energy and industrial strategy (BEIS) department’s Heat Networks Investment Projects is due to be announced after the election, having been held back due to purdah rules.

 David Blackman 

This article first appeared on edie’s sister title, Utility Week

Comments (1)

  1. Keiron Shatwell says:

    It is all well and good saying all new homes should be built with no carbon heating but until there is effective QAQC on house builders to achieve the highest standard of construction (particularly insulation) and there is effective controls on installation of no carbon heating it will make bugger all difference.

    By way of example: a friend had an Air Source Heat Pump fitted in the belief it would lower their heating bills. However they realised it was costing them twice as much to heat their home and actually wasn’t able to heat it fully in really cold spells. They subsequently switched off the ASHP and went back to the oil boiler and it actually uses LESS energy to heat their home.

    Old leaky houses will never be suitable for ASHP or GSHP as they can not hold the heat in well enough. Even newbuilds are so shockingly poorly built they aren’t efficient enough for ASHP/GSHP to work effectively and cost less in terms of both energy and money.

    Domestic (and Commercial) heating isn’t just about how to heat a building it is about making that building as energy efficient as possible. PassivHaus buildings can even be warmed purely by the people living in them with no extra heating required in many cases.

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