Gas could continue to have a vital role to play in heating people's homes way into the future according to a report published by ENA. The Report was prepared for ENA by Delta-ee. It has analysed the UK's housing stock in a detailed way looking at how the various heating technologies currently available could be effectively deployed.
This is the most comprehensive domestic heat study ever undertaken. It builds on the Redpoint work ENA published two years ago. It is a significant intervention into the debate around heat. It complements and considerably builds upon the Government's Heat Strategy published earlier this year.
The Report examines three basic scenarios: Customer choice (customers are allowed to choose their heating system based on upfront cost, running cost and physical fit); electrification and heat networks; and balanced transition.
The Report makes clear that the Balanced Transition scenario can be achieved with less government intervention (and at less cost to the customer) than Electrification & Heat Networks (E&HN), while achieving 90% carbon reduction from today to 2050:
High efficiency gas appliances (including hybrid gas boiler using air source heat pumps), have lower running costs (and in some cases upfront costs) for certain parts of the housing stock than electric alternatives and are easier to retrofit into existing homes with gas boilers.
A greater mix of technologies has a lower impact on the energy system – the addition of hybrid heat pumps and gas appliances to the mix reduces additional peak electricity generation demand by 50% lower than E&HN, and district heat is focused on higher density housing.
The benefits of a Balanced Transition approach are that it achieves a 90% carbon reduction from today to 2050 and it:
Avoids moving an additional 12 million homes completely away from gas – where the highest customer costs are imposed.
Allows more choice, and via high uptake of hybrid heat pumps, additional peak generation demand only grows to 24GW rather than the 48GW under E&HN.
Avoids decommissioning the entire residential gas network (total cost of £4bn).
Could reduce the additional investment in electricity distribution networks (capex & opex, discounted, over 2012–2050) by £8bn (or more if smart solutions are not rolled out).
Avoids pushing heat networks out as far into suburbia – 3 million fewer homes are required to switch to district heating.
Jon Slowe, Director, Delta-ee and lead author of the Report said:
“The UK is about to embark on hugely challenging low carbon journey with lots of uncertainties. The biggest challenge we face is dealing with the 22 million homes that currently use gas boilers. Reductions in thermal demand and biomethane alone won’t be sufficient to reach DECC’s target to fully decarbonise residential heat by 2050. Our analysis shows that customers won’t voluntarily make the switch to lower carbon heating choices.
Full decarbonisation can be achieved by relying almost completely on electric heat pumps and zero carbon heat networks. However, this imposes significant costs on customers and brings retrofit challenges. It also requires heat networks to reach
beyond the dense urban areas which will be difficult, and will have a huge impact on the electricity distribution network and peak electricity demand on the coldest days of the year.”
The Report was launched at Westminster Abbey by the DECC Minister responsible for the Government Heat Strategy Rt. Hon. Greg Barker MP.
He said: "I am struck by many of the common challenges identified by the ENA."
He went onto say "We will need to continue to engage closely with the ENA and its members."
Jennifer Arran, Analyst, Delta-ee and co-author said:
“A more balanced approach can reduce carbon emissions by 90% from 2010-20 levels, while avoiding the challenges of moving an additional 12 million suburban homes off the gas network. While this does require 75 TWh of biomethane, it imposes less additional cost on customers, has a lower impact on the energy system and allows heat networks to focus on the denser urban areas.
“Heat networks and electric heating play massive roles in both of our low carbon scenarios. But keeping low carbon gas appliances in the toolkit to decarbonise heat could significantly reduce the scale of the challenge.”
The Report can be read here.