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The UK Looks to Decarbonize Domestic Heating

Matt Ball on November 11, 2015 - in Corporate, Energy, Planning

Birmingham, England, Nov. 11, 2015—Future low carbon heating systems should improve the heat experience, be simpler to install and provide consumers with enhanced control if the UK is to meet the challenge of dramatically reducing emissions from domestic heating, according to a new report published by the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI).

Heat accounts for more than 40% of the UK’s total energy demand and heating the UK’s buildings contributes roughly 20% of overall UK CO2 emissions. But today fewer than 4% of households have low carbon heating and 90% prefer gas central heating when given the choice so low carbon  systems need improving.

“Consumer Challenges for Low Carbon Heat,” written by Matthew Lipson, the Head of Consumer Insight at the Energy Systems Catapult – who are delivering the ETI’s Smart Systems and Heat (SSH) programme – is based on an extensive ETI consumer research project which has highlighted a number of issues the UK has to address if it is to change how it heats the majority of its buildings.

In the UK location constrains the heating solutions available to each building, existing buildings also have their own constraints and many homes will need modifying to make sure solutions work well. Alongside this, people are diverse and ETI’s research shows they are concerned about different things – for example cost, comfort, or health – and therefore the same solution will not suit everyone.

From this research three key consumer challenges for any transition to low carbon heating have been identified.

  • There is a need to improve low carbon heating experiences by designing solutions to tackle common problems and enhance home life. Historic experience shows that widespread change in domestic heating can be achieved when new options deliver a better experience for consumers.
  • Low carbon heating should be simple to prepare for and install. Workable low carbon heating solutions should be designed so they can be installed in a similar timeframe to a gas boiler. People will also need to know what will work in their area and what they need to do to prepare their homes.
  • People will need better controls if they are to get the experiences they want from lower carbon heating. Heating is hard to control because of the delay between adjusting a setting and feeling the effect. Low carbon systems may extend this delay and change the cost of heating. So, it may prove key to enhance heating controls if the UK is to unlock deep decarbonisation.

Matthew Lipson said:

“The UK will need to all but eliminate emissions from domestic heating if it is to meet its carbon targets. Previous measures to reduce emissions have been relatively simple, cheap and delivered benefits but the options currently available to make further step-change reductions would require households to endure more disruption for less obvious benefits.

“We need to develop ways of reducing emissions from domestic heating that are more appealing to consumers so the transition to low carbon heating on a large scale is much easier to deliver in practice.

“Any solutions will need to be underpinned by sound engineering; high quality design; appropriate technical, consumer and economic regulation; and financially viable business models. But ultimately they will need to be appealing, simple to install and easy to control.”

The Energy Systems Catapult will deliver phase one of the SSH programme as a supplier to the ETI following the transition of the SSH programme team to the Catapult. From 2017 the Catapult will be responsible for delivery of phase two of the programme independently of the ETI.

More details on the Consumer Challenges for Low Carbon Heat Insight, including the report, video and infographics are available at http://www.eti.co.uk/smart-systems-and-heat-consumer-challenges-for-low-carbon-heat/

About the ETI

The ETI is a public-private partnership between global energy and engineering companies – BP, Caterpillar, EDF, Rolls-Royce and Shell – and the UK Government.

The role of the ETI is to act as a conduit between academia, industry and the government to accelerate the development of low carbon technologies. We bring together engineering projects that develop affordable, secure and sustainable technologies to help the UK address its long term emissions reductions targets as well as delivering nearer term benefits. We make targeted commercial investments in nine technology programmes across heat, power, transport and the infrastructure that links them.

About the Energy Systems Catapult

The Energy Systems Catapult is the UK’s technology and innovation centre set up to support companies and Government for the development of new products and services to address the new commercial opportunities created by the transformation of UK and global energy systems (covering electricity, heat and combustible gases).

The Catapult’s mission is to bring the worlds of industry, academia and Government together to encourage and support the development of new technology based products and services in the energy sector. It is a non-profit, non-partisan company limited by guarantee. In addition to developing its own globally unique technical capabilities in whole systems approaches it will act as an ‘impartial broker’, prioritising the opening up of new markets and the promotion of British skills and strengths. The success of the Catapult will be measured by the success of the companies it partners with employing more people, making more profit and ultimately resulting in the creation of wealth and positive social impact for Britain.

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