Page 57 - European Energy Innovation - Autumn 2016 publication
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Autumn 2016 European Energy Innovation                  57

                                              HEAT DECARBONISATION

Decarbonising heat –
the challenge for the UK

By Chris Le Fevre (pictured), Senior Visiting Research Fellow, Oxford Institute for Energy Studies

The challenge of mitigating the             efficiency terms the UK has some of the    system is to be developed:
            environmental impact of fossil  worst housing in Europe and 90% of
            fuels in power generation       existing housing stock is still expected   •	 Heat Supply
            has received a great deal of    to be in use by 2050. Furthermore, most    •	 Networks
attention in recent years. Much less        householders are happy with gas which      •	 Consumer premises
attention has been paid to the issue of     is seen as cost effective, responsive and
heat despite its scale and importance       reliable. The case for change is far from  There is also the need to reduce
in many European countries. In the UK,      understood or accepted.                    demand through improved energy
for example, heat demand accounts                                                      efficiency. The biggest gains are with
for 48% of total energy consumption         There are three elements that need         the consumer by, for example, installing
and between a fifth and a quarter of        to be addressed if a zero carbon heat      condensing boilers and cladding
total carbon emissions. In the UK 80%
of space heating and hot water in
domestic and commercial premises is
provided by natural gas with only 4.8
% coming from renewable sources in
2014 – the lowest in the EU.

If carbon reduction goals are to be met
heating will need to be substantially
decarbonised. Though the scale of
the task can appear daunting. The
annual amount of natural gas energy
delivered for heating in Great Britain
is nearly double that of total electricity
consumption and peak levels are 5
times greater. Heating demand varies
dramatically between seasons and on
a cold day in winter can be up to 12
times that of the summer load. Gas is
well suited to meet these requirements
in the UK:

•	 The fuel is available in nearly 23
    million households

•	 A wide range of flexible supply
    options including underground
    storage and pipeline and LNG
    imports means that peaks in demand
    can normally be comfortably met.

Replacing natural gas is, therefore, far
from a trivial endeavour. The problem is
exacerbated by the fact that in energy   
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