‘Time to get serious’ with net-zero homes, UK heating industry tells government
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Leading UK energy trade body the Energy and Utilities Alliance (EUA) has today written to business secretary Grant Shapps, suggesting that it is time to conduct full-village trials for heat pumps.
Mike Foster, CEO of the Energy and Utilities Alliance (EUA), has called for full-village trials of heat pumps to be set up to explore the possible heating options available for each home; the likely associated costs of reinforcing the electricity network, and how consumers view the change.
In his call, Foster said it is “time to get serious on net zero homes” and explore all the options available in more detail.
The gas networks are currently examining the option of hydrogen villages, exploring how homes can be converted from mains gas to hydrogen. Another option being considered by the government department that Shapps runs is to convert homes from mains gas to heat pumps.
Examining how a whole village is converted would study the housing infrastructure; the possible heating options available for each home; the likely reinforcement costs of the electricity network - something that government minister Graham Stuart has recently spoken about; and finally how consumers view the change. Other heat pump trials, spread over the whole country, simply don’t do what is needed, the EUA claims.
The EUA's Foster has already identified a source of funding for the trial, all within current expenditure levels.
He said: “Consumers cannot stay on natural gas forever. Whether they like it or not, the government will shift them onto either hydrogen or a heat pump. What government has yet to do is examine the impact in a specific location of a wholesale switch to heat pumps. They are doing it for hydrogen, quite rightly, and they need to do it for heat pumps, too.
“It is the only way for a thorough assessment of the housing stock to be undertaken – house by house for a whole community. That way, the heat pump industry can show what it can do and what it can’t. Then government can see what is needed to fill the gaps.
“One of the most important factors that needs to be addressed is the reinforcement of the power networks. They need to be able to cope with peak winter heat demand, so actually having a real-world example for reference will be so important for decision-makers. They can find out, warts and all, what the costs of this policy will be for the customer.
“Such a concentrated trial would also address the concerns expressed by organisations such as the Institute of Acoustics, who are concerned about the noise impact of a series of heat pumps all working at the same time, not just the isolated one.
“The customer also needs to become aware of the choice facing the whole UK population. They can’t carry on using natural gas and the government will either say use hydrogen or fit a heat pump. It’s time to get real about net zero homes and tell consumers how it is.
“The good thing about a heat pump village trial is that the funding can come from within existing BEIS budgets. There is going to be a huge underspend from the Boiler Upgrade Scheme, which is only a modest success. Rather than give the cash back to the Treasury, why not conduct a heat pump village trial?”
With a deepening and Europe-wide energy crisis precipitated by Russia's unprovoked military invasion of Ukraine, national energy security has become a key issue - a concern compounded by the myriad issues surrounding climate change and the need to reduce or completely end the dependency on fossil fuels.
In January this year, a report suggested that deploying heat pumps and boosting energy efficiency should be the priority for heating UK homes in the next decade, rather than hydrogen.
Last month, analysis from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) found that domestic gas use in the UK would have been significantly lower this winter had the nation kept pace with Europe on heat pump installations and that the
UK’s failure on this front has left it ‘gas addicted’.
In May this year, UK energy experts called on the government to introduce a new bill to support the development of hydrogen and heat pump technologies, to drive the transition to net zero and help lower future energy costs.
By August, with the energy crisis intensifying, a centre-right think tank - Onward - was recommending that the government should give UK stamp duty rebates of up to 50 per cent for those installing heat pumps and other energy-efficiency measures.
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