'We owe it to customers' to inform them about decarbonisation says PassivSystems CEO

The government should keep householders better informed about the phasing out of gas in order to decarbonise UK heating, Energy UK’s annual conference has heard.

Colin Calder, chief executive of PassivSystems, said that heating provision was moving to a “radically different model” within the typical household’s next two to three boiler replacement cycles.

But while there is widespread agreement that heating must be decarbonised in order to meet the UK’s 2050 carbon targets, the recently published clean growth strategy contains few details on how this should be implemented.

During a panel debate on decarbonisation, he said: “We owe it to consumers to tell them with certainty what they should be doing at their next boiler cycle replacement.”

But based on discussions with officials at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Calder said “no one has any clear idea what the answer” to decarbonisation of heat should be.

“It’s the biggest single capital costs to a consumer but we don’t know yet what consumers should be doing.”

He also criticised the government for only earmarking £184m to tackle the issue in the clean growth strategy, given the scale of the challenge posed by decarbonisation of the heat network.

Calder said that the industry also had to step up to the plate.

“I struggle to understand an industry that has interests of consumers at its heart but doesn’t know how to communicate to households how they are going to use their next two boilers.”

Sarah Deasley, director of Frontier Economics, agreed with Calder that customers should be engaged with decarbonisation.

“If you don’t bring consumers with you at the start you will get a backlash.”

She said that the greatest uncertainty surrounding decarbonisation of heat revolved around government policy on the issue.

“The one thing you need for the transition to the decarbonised heat future is policy certainty,” she said, identifying electrification and hydrogen as the two chief options for decarbonisation.

But she also said that moving to a hydrogen based system would require establishing whether CCS (carbon capture and storage) is viable in the UK.