Low-carbon home heating holds the key to UK hitting its 2050 carbon target

The Committee on Climate Change, which advises Government on emissions targets, made the headlines recently with its stark warning that unless UK homes urgently adopt more rigorous low-carbon standards, the UK will miss its 2050 carbon target.

And obviously we’ve had the news this week that gas heating systems will no longer be allowed in new homes from 2025 under new regulations unveiled by Philip Hammond. The Chancellor announced in his spring statement that the Government will be introducing a Future Homes Standard that will apply to new dwellings from the middle of the next decade.

Under the standard, new houses will have to be installed with “world leading” levels of energy efficiency and low-carbon heating, such as heat pumps rather than gas-fired central heating. We do also believe that gas networks have a long term future as part of a sustainable energy mix beyond 2050 - especially given that future technology, including hydrogen and biogas will enable a reduction of the carbon element of gas.

Decarbonising heat is a major challenge for the UK and one that SSE Enterprise wants to play a key role in supporting. Energy for heating homes accounts for roughly one fifth of UK carbon emissions; so how we heat new and existing homes will be crucial in helping us meet overarching carbon targets.   

This intervention from the Committee on Climate Change is a welcome reminder that delivering sustainable home heating must be a key priority for both the Government and the industry and the evidence this week suggests that call is being heeded.

We feel that heat networks have a key role to play in the decarbonisation journey. Heat networks have the potential to reduce carbon; make use of existing waste and secondary heat sources; reduce energy bills; provide flexibility for the electricity grid; create jobs and leverage investment into the UK.

They also provide a solution in a time of uncertainty about the best pathway towards decarbonisation and the technology mix which should drive it. Once installed, heat networks have the potential to facilitate the connection of a variety of current and future heat sources thereby enabling us to make best use of lower carbon heat generating technology as it evolves.

SSE Enterprise currently looks after 8,000 residential and multiple commercial customers across its 13 heat networks - with many more in the pipeline. Our network in Glasgow at the Wyndford Estate is one of the UK’s largest retrofitted heat networks scheme. We are investing more and more in district heating projects as part of our vision to become the most trusted heat networks company in the UK.

As higher carbon forms of heating are phased out, I believe the future for heat networks is bright. Further bold action from government and industry is needed, but there is a real opportunity for heat networks to play its part in helping society tackle the decarbonisation challenge.

About the author

Jody Pittaway Sector Director - SSE Enterprise Heat

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