Energy sector urges government to ‘deliver on full potential’ of new technologies
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UK energy experts have called on the government to introduce a new bill to support the development of hydrogen and heat pump technologies, drive the transition to net-zero and help lower future energy costs.
The UK energy sector is urging the government to make the biggest changes to the UK’s energy laws in over a decade, amid a deepening crisis caused by high gas prices.
Energy UK said the upcoming Queen’s Speech should include a new energy bill which increases investment into new technologies such as hydrogen and heat pumps, while the Heating and Hotwater Industry Council (HHIC) is calling for greater support for hybrid systems in the government’s net-zero strategy in order to provide customers with a practical method of achieving low-carbon heating.
The investment in greener energy sources will also improve energy efficiency in buildings across the country, with EnergyUK advocating more smart meters and charging points for electric cars. The current record energy bills are seen by the group as an opportunity to expand the country’s sources of domestic clean energy, supporting the country’s net-zero targets.
“This country now has a raft of ambitious targets in place and the focus must now be on delivering these," said Dhara Vyas, Energy UK’s director of advocacy.
“We can only do this with a bill that enables our sector to do what we need to do now and deliver on the full potential of the future energy system, so that progress isn’t being blocked by outdated legislation and regulations drawn up for a different time.”
Last month, energy prices saw an average 54 per cent increase for the average household. Prices are expected to rise further in October, when the energy price cap will be raised again.
The Queen’s traditional speech during the State Opening of Parliament ceremony – held this year on May 10 – is seen by the energy industry as a perfect opportunity for the UK government to put forward plans to address these price increases and make a commitment to cut emissions.
Last year, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s (BEIS) 'Heat and Buildings Strategy' outlined the key technologies in the UK’s transition to net zero. The £450m 'Boiler Upgrade Scheme' was the centrepiece of the development, offering homeowners grants of between £5,000 and £6,000 for the installation of heat pumps. However, the current scheme only extends to all-electric systems at present, leaving hybrid set-ups ineligible for any type of public funding.
“The supporting initiatives surrounding heat pumps demonstrate the key role that this technology will play in the nation’s decarbonisation efforts," said Stewart Clements, director at the HHIC.
"However, as this legislation does not currently extend to hybrid systems – in this case, an air source heat pump and gas boiler, operated by an intelligent control system – we feel that BEIS has effectively discontinued support for one of the most viable routes to achieving low-carbon heating."
Although manufacturers are increasingly launching all-electric systems, update of these still faces kept challenges such as accessibility and attractiveness to the consumer.
The HHIC’s latest white paper, Hybrid Heat Pumps: A Flexible Route to Decarbonise Heat explains how transitioning directly to all-electric technology is not an option for many consumers, who can nonetheless make an immediate reduction in their carbon footprint by switching to hybrid systems. Longer-term, solutions like hydrogen-fuelled boilers can also provide more energy-efficient fuel options that help bridge the gap until full decarbonisation - whether through decarbonisation of the gas grid or a move to full electric solutions - can be achieved.
“The HHIC strongly advocates that the Government adopts a revised position on this technology [hybrid energy systems], as we believe it to be one of the most practical routes to net zero,” Clemens said.
Separately, conservation charity WWF and insurance giant Aviva also called on the government to ensure that the Queen’s Speech puts plans to cut emissions to net zero at the heart of how policy is made. Shaping the net zero future now with a “coherent transition plan” for the whole of the UK economy will, in their view, help create jobs as well as protect and restore the global environment.
WWF's Tanya Steele said: “WWF and Aviva share the same view – that the world still has time to avoid the worst impacts of a climate catastrophe, but only if all of us, especially governments and businesses, take immediate action."
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