Until recently, heat has been the policy elephant in the room and the focus on decarbonising electricity generation seemed to be the assumed trajectory for all energy, both its source and the type of demand. Thankfully, there is now a more diverse discussion taking place and it recognises more of the implications and consequences of the policy decisions we take. It is also a discussion that evaluates the many factors more closely; such as the reality of how to heat our homes affordably, the uptake of low carbon heat technologies including the advancement of the markets for them, and also the most important element of all – customers.
Our submission to the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee Heat Inquiry today highlights the importance for energy efficiency but it also reiterates that the consumer choice factor cannot be ignored. This is something raised in the Delta-ee report ‘2050 Pathways for Domestic Heat’ that we commissioned. Heat demand reduction is clearly a primary goal for policy. If that can be achieved it can deliver cost benefits to bill payers and support the economy. If we are to meet our climate change targets then we require a concerted effort to reduce the amount of energy needed for space heating.
DECC have laid positive foundations through the Green Deal and the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) and, as insulation is a cost effective means of achieving this, it will play a part in helping to address fuel poverty too. Therefore, we think this is the correct immediate focus.
But customers remain the key and an awareness of their own energy consumption is vital. This means maximising the potential from the roll out of smart meters to help the public to engage with the way, as individuals and as a country, we use energy. There needs to be frameworks in place to support this and ensure they are informed to such a level that they are able to see benefits.
ENA supports an energy solution to our heat challenge, not an exclusive electricity or gas option. Through the Smart Grid Forum we are working to develop and promote heat pumps, particularly to address those off the gas grid, but also as a low carbon alternative in suitable homes. We also commissioned the most comprehensive study into domestic heat, which showed the most cost effective and least intrusive solution to be a balanced transition – utilising gas, including biomethane, to avoid costly changes to peoples’ homes and in network reinforcement.
Through this measured approach, we can have a clear route to the decarbonisation necessary to meet climate change targets but in a way that allows flexibility and protects the consumer’s right to choose the solution they want for their home.