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Government Heat Strategy builds on Carbon Plan to cut emissions

The Government has published its Heat Strategy, setting out a vision of how to cut emissions from heating homes, businesses and industry in the decades ahead. The Heat Strategy builds on the Government’s 2011 Carbon Plan which set out plans to meet the fourth carbon budget of a 50% cut in emissions by the mid-2020s.

        

The scale of the challenge

Almost half of the energy consumed in the UK is used to generate heat for buildings and water, in cooking food and manufacturing goods or to keep offices and homes cool in hot weather. The vast majority of the UK’s heat is produced by burning fossil fuels – currently around a third of the UK’s carbon emissions come from the energy used to produce heat, more than from generating electricity. Recognising that this is unsustainable the Carbon Plan set out the need our buildings to be virtually zero carbon by 2050. The transformation of heat-generation and heat-use will create new markets and new opportunities, while also reducing our exposure to volatile fossil fuel prices.

The Heat Strategy sets out the long term challenges and opportunities on the pathway to decarbonisation, looking at heat use across the different sectors in the economy, providing supporting evidence and real-life case studies and asking specific questions on future policy options.

Achieving the transition to low carbon heat will mean changes across the UK’s economy over the coming decades, with different solutions required in different areas. The strategy follows the Carbon Plan’s three stages for action over the coming decades:

  • This decade – Government’s focus for both buildings and industry will be on energy efficiency and preparing the market by driving early take up of renewable heat, building the supply chain and supporting innovation;
  • The 2020s and 2030s – Uptake of low carbon heat technologies will need to be widespread in homes and businesses. Government’s focus will be on creating the right frameworks to support the market and minimise costs to consumers and industry;
  • The long term – The Government will increasingly focus on helping consumers and businesses tackle more challenging areas of low carbon heat where more innovation may be needed. By 2050, heat for buildings will need to be entirely carbon-free, which means a range of renewable options like heat pumps in buildings as well as a bigger role for low carbon heat networks in cities.

Inviting views

The Heat strategy does not make new policy proposals at this stage but sets out the framework in which new policies can be developed and invites views on the plan. Comments can be submitted online by 24 May and a summary will be published shortly after. Government will look to develop specific policy proposals within the next 12 months.

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Edward Davey said:

“Cutting emissions from the way we generate heat is essential if we are to meet our climate change and renewables targets.

“Many towns, cities and communities across the UK are already switching from fossil fuels to low carbon forms of heating like biomass, heat pumps and solar thermal.

“I want to give the opportunity to others to follow the pioneers so that, in time, our buildings are no longer dependent on burning fossil fuels for heat but using affordable and reliable alternatives to help create a flourishing, competitive low carbon manufacturing industry.

“I welcome views on this plan to ensure government and industry can work together towards a sustainable, affordable and low carbon energy future.”

The National Heat Map

DECC has also launched the new interactive online National Heat Map, to develop understanding of the potential of low carbon heat networks, which pipe heat directly into homes instead of requiring the home owner to burn gas or oil in their own boiler.

Developed for DECC by the Centre for Sustainable Energy, the map will allow planners to visualise the potential for heat networks in their area, laying the foundation for further feasibility studies to initiate large scale projects where they are most effective.

Low carbon heat case studies

The strategy includes a range of different low carbon heat case studies, including one in Nottingham which is home to one of the largest district heating networks in the UK. The 65km network now serves more than 4,600 homes and over 100 businesses and public sector properties – roughly 3.5% of the city’s entire heat consumption.

Greenhouse gas emissions in 2011

DECC has also recently published provisional estimates of UK greenhouse gas emissions for 2011, together with final estimates of 2010 UK greenhouse gas emissions by fuel type and end-user. UK emissions are provisionally estimated to be 549.3 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent, 7.0 per cent lower than the 2010 figure of 590.4 million tonnes.

The decrease in CO2 emissions between 2010 and 2011 is primarily attributed to a decrease in residential gas use, combined with a reduction in demand for electricity accompanied by lower use of gas and greater use of nuclear power for electricity generation.

Edward Davey welcomed the decrease in emissions:

“This is more evidence of how the UK is leading the way in the fight against climate change. Carbon emissions are down, homes are more energy efficient and low carbon power is up. Thanks to the Green Deal and the Government’s reforms to the electricity market I hope to see this trend continue and gather pace.”


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