Report reveals some uncomfortable truths

A new report from think-tank Policy Connect warns that continuing to heat 27m homes with fossil fuels threatens the UK’s 2050 net-zero carbon target and clean air goals. “Uncomfortable Home Truths – Why Britain urgently needs a low carbon heat strategy”, the third installment in the Future Gas Series from Carbon Connect, explores the implications of a transition to low carbon heat on households in the UK.

The report, sponsored by Baxi Heating, the Energy and Utilities Alliance (EUA), and the Institution of Gas Engineers and Managers (IGEM), can be accessed here.

The three-year study warns that the UK will miss its 2050 net-zero climate target ‘unless radical changes in housing policy, energy policy and climate policy are prioritised’.

UK homes are primarily heated by fossil fuels and contribute 13% of the UK’s carbon footprint (equivalent to all the UK’s 31m cars).

New polling finds that consumers are open to cleaner greener ways to heat their homes into the future, but that they are ‘still in the dark about smarter, greener heating solutions and lack access to independent advice to help them make better decisions for their homes, pockets and the planet’.

The report says a bold new national roadmap is needed by 2020 which puts consumers and households at the heart of a revolution in green heat innovation. However, polling shows that the vast majority of MPs and the public don’t recognise this as a priority of climate policy, instead focusing on other sectors like fracking or transport.

Four key recommendations are made in the report, with a view to the next five years.

  1. Urgently start a national conversation on green heat which puts consumers first.
  2. Publish a national low carbon heat roadmap by 2020, ahead of a comprehensive UK green heat strategy by 2025.
  3. Establish an Olympic-style deliver body to coordinate the transition and oversee and incentivise regional innovation.
  4. Invest in transition re-training and re-skilling the nation’s gas heating installers.

Jonathan Shaw, chief executive of Policy Connect, says: “As more of us flick on our home heating this month, the question of how we heat British homes into the future without breaking the bank or Britain’s carbon budget is becoming a national emergency.”

Joanna Furtado, sustainability manager at Policy Connect and lead author of the report, says: “The next five years are critical for heat decarbonisation in new and existing homes and meeting our climate targets. We need to spark a national conversation on heat as MPs and consumers are still in the dark on the carbon and cost savings greener home heat solutions could offer.”

Jeff House, head of external affairs at Baxi Heating, comments: “With 85% of homes heated by natural gas boilers at present, switching gas distribution networks to supply low carbon variants, such as hydrogen, to households is an essential step in helping the UK to reach its net zero emissions target.”

Speaking for the EUA, CEO Mike Foster says: “Consumers must be front and centre of future heat strategy and the industry must consider what the consumer really wants, and if it can be delivered.”

“The key findings of the report reaffirm that we need to act now, we must support households and provide attractive and affordable low carbon heating whilst protecting those in fuel poverty.

“EUA believe that the only sensible, cost effective and deliverable solution to decarbonising the hard to tackle heat sector is by using green gases such as hydrogen. The technology is being tested that can deliver the carbon reductions needed, while keeping people warm in their homes, in an affordable way.”

The recommendations and findings of this report will form the basis of Carbon Connect’s upcoming work aimed at influencing BEIS’ 2020 Heat Roadmap.

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