Policy, Policy & regulation, News

Low-carbon heating must be installed in millions of homes over the next decade if the UK is to completely decarbonise by 2050, according to new analysis by the Energy Systems Catapult.

Last night, the government confirmed it will heed the advice of the Committee on Climate (CCC) by setting a legally binding target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

The Energy Systems Catapult says meeting the current target of cutting emissions by 80 per cent on 1990 levels would still allow for the use of some natural gas for heating.

Lowering emissions to zero will instead require natural gas boilers to be completely replaced with either hydrogen boilers, electrically-powered heat pumps or some combination of the two. Consumers will have to become much more involved in the transition and make major lifestyle changes.

“With the average gas boiler lasting 15 years, most households will have two opportunities to switch to low carbon between now and 2050,” noted Energy Systems Catapult chief executive Philip New. “With a tighter target, more homes will have to opt for low-carbon solutions sooner rather than later.”

He said the greatest challenge in meeting the net-zero goal will be in “developing low-carbon heating options which are as good, if not better, than current heating technologies.”

“That means helping companies develop propositions that will give people better control over how they heat their homes, including how efficient their homes are, as well as developing the potential of low-carbon gases,” he added.

“Choosing the right options and rolling these out at scale will also require a much deeper understanding of different local areas’ energy systems – the state of their housing stock, the capacity of their power and gas grids – to ensure a joined-up approach and to keep costs down.”

New said policies to support decarbonisation must “ensure the least well off are not disproportionately affected, particularly in the case of low-carbon heating.”

The Scottish government is also following the advice of the CCC by setting a target of reaching net emissions by 2045.

And the Welsh government is going beyond its recommendations by aiming for net zero emissions by 2050. The CCC suggested only a 95 per cent reduction due the large sheep farming industry in Wales.