Local energy planning will be key to minimising the costs of decarbonisation, according to new study commissioned by the Energy Technologies Institute.
In a series of reports setting out its findings, the Energy Systems Catapult says no single approach to decarbonisation can be applied nationally, with each local area requiring a unique mix of solutions.
Drawing on evidence from pilots in Newcastle, Bridgend and Bury, the study concludes that local energy planning conducted on a whole-system basis could limit the impact of decarbonising heat on total system costs to an additional 15 per cent by 2050.
Accordingly, the Energy Systems Catapult has designed a planning framework to assist local authorities, energy networks and other stakeholders.
“To meet the government’s national target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, we will need a radical transformation of our local energy systems,” said Energy Systems Catapult innovation business leader Richard Halsey.
“However, every local area is different. The state of homes and buildings, energy resources and networks, and levels of ambition are unique to each area. A single solution imposed across the country is likely to cost more and produce less desirable outcomes for people and businesses.”
Andrew Haslett, chief engineer at the Energy Technologies Institute, commented: “One of the toughest challenges for UK climate and energy policy is the decarbonisation of heat. This will require a major overhaul of the energy system, extending into people’s homes, including the fabric and domestic heating systems of buildings.
“As highlighted in the recent Committee on Climate Change report, almost all heating systems in homes, such as traditional gas boilers, will need to be replaced with advanced low carbon technologies. The gas grid may need to be scaled back or converted to distribute low carbon gases like hydrogen.
“Choices made for heating technology will impact electricity networks, as will the introduction of electric vehicles. These significant developments require coherent whole systems energy planning to ensure that actions taken in the short term will not cause inefficiencies in the long term.”
Another recent report produced by the Energy Systems Catapult on the behalf of the Energy Technologies Institute concluded that decarbonising the energy system using a mix of solutions could limit the annual cost to around 1 per cent of GDP by 2050.
This would be significantly cheaper than a more simplistic “blanket” approach. The report said decarbonising heat using mainly electrification or mainly hydrogen would respectively cost twice (2.28%) and three-and-a-half times (3.51%) as much.