Hamworthy Heating Boiling Point Autumn - Winter 2019

AT A BREAKING POINT – OUR WAY TO NET ZERO BY 2050 It has been a few tumultuous months since our last issue of Boiling Point. In June, just prior to her resignation, Theresa May announced the UK would be seeking to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. In July, when we started working on this edition of Boiling Point, we saw another record-breaking month of high temperatures – a timely reminder for the need to act. This was followed by several climate change warnings of a ‘point of no return’ as well as school strikes as part of Fridays For Future making the news. We saw protests from Extinction Rebellion all over the country and it seems we’re now waking up to the reality that there really is urgent action to be taken to avert a climate breakdown. Committee on Climate Change 2019 Progress Report to Parliament Mentioning its own Net Zero report from May 2019, which provided evidence that new goals can be met with the already agreed budget, the CCC criticises in its 2019 Progress Report to Parliament that “tougher targets do not themselves reduce emissions.” What does that tell us? Actions speak louder than words. Apart from the power sector, we haven’t seen as many reductions in CO 2 emissions as we would have hoped. That means 1% on average (2% with temperature adjustment) whereas the net-carbon target by 2050 would require an average annual reduction of about 3% of the 2018 emissions – quite a challenge. Looking at buildings, we have seen a 3% increase (1% fall when adjusted to milder winter temperatures, though) of carbon emissions in 2018. While emissions from domestic buildings have fallen by 2%, non- residential buildings gained 1%. Worryingly, building emissions (commercial and domestic) in 2018 were higher than in 2015 – regardless of temperature adjustment. Work with what we’ve got These figures don’t come as much of a surprise. In our last Boiling Point, we reported the sharp decline of insulation rates in buildings. If support for initiatives is dropped, we will have a hard time to improve our old energy-inefficient building stock. While there’s of course the potential to upgrade to more efficient boiler plants and optimise the way it is controlled, we should look at ‘leaky buildings’ to improve the building fabric, reduce heat loss and hence energy wastage and CO 2 emissions. To put it simply: to fix the cause rather than the symptoms. The future of our gas grid The suggestion by the CCC for a total ban on gas connections to new housing developments certainly made waves in our industry. Some questioned how realistic the proposal was, but for us it was also a question of how this idea could be extended into commercial heating. As one of the sectors that has decarbonised the least and given the fact that about one third of the UK’s overall emissions stems from heating, there’s urgent need for us to look at low carbon technologies. Making use of an already existent infrastructure, the Clean Growth Report, published in August by the Science and Technology Committee, looked at Government policies to achieve the net-zero target by 2050. It called for investigating a suitable mix for low-carbon technologies and a “clear roadmap by the time of the Spring Statement 2020 for rebalancing levies on electricity and gas” to evaluate emissions from each. Hydrogen is commonly mentioned as a means to a low- carbon gas grid – be it as a replacement for natural gas or in terms of a mixture with natural gas. The former is currently being tested within the Hy4Heat Programme, commissioned by the Department for Business Energy & Industrial Strategy which will run until March 2021. While the investigation of safety aspects of hydrogen as replacement has priority, the biggest problem is current appliances not being compatible with pure hydrogen. The Clean Growth Report calls for a large-scale trial by 2025 but also for demonstration and modelling projects. For a hydrogen natural gas mixture it is mostly a matter of finding safe levels of hydrogen while also ensuring 4 AUTUMN / WINTER 19