Decarbonising the UK’s heat network currently stands as another monumental challenge. Especially when you consider that the electricity system in the UK is only decarbonising at rate of 3.7% and the heat network in the UK  continues to emit significant carbon emissions. The major fuel used in heating systems in the UK is, by in large, mains gas. So, it stands to reason that in order to reach net-zero by 2050, the UK will need to revolutionise their heating network.

Our homes are currently, to put it bluntly, old and inefficient! Most modern homes are mildly efficient but have a long way to go, along with our older homes! To give you an idea of how old the majority of the homes in the UK are, here’s a handy graph courtesy of the BBC’s energy brief for September!

Decarbonising the UK's heat network

How are our homes currently heated?

 

Our heat network at the moment is largely dominated by natural gas, also called mains gas. More than four fifths to be precise! So when the issue of decarbonising the UK’s heat network is brought up, one of our main concerns is changing our fuel! For a brief overview, here are the most recent figures for housing heating fuel by nation.

Decarbonising the UK's heat network

 

 

CO2 emissions from our current system

 

Household heating currently accounts for a large portion of the UK’s total carbon emissions. Making sure that we eliminate all carbon emissions from our heating network is a monumental task. Essentially, we will have to transform the UK’s entire housing stock!

We will need smarter homes, less CO2 intensive heating and much more effective insulation. More specifically,  homes will need to be responsible for monitoring their energy usage and have controlled or automated temperature and appliance control. We will need to revamp our fuel or heat sources, either from biomass and heat, electric heating, hydrogen heat etc.

Taking control of our emissions means we will also need to make sure that all homes are insulated properly. Measures like lagging your loft and water tank or cavity wall insulation will be vital to decarbonising our heating network. Even something as simple as double or triple glazed windows with draft excluders that will help retain heat in the winter will contribute greatly toward decarbonisation.

Lastly and sort of least, houses will need to improve ventilation, reducing reliance on air conditioning! I say least of all because we don’t really have that problem here in the UK! Not for that long at least, maybe a few weeks in summer.

 

What will all this cost?

 

This is usually the point in our posts where you’re thinking; this is great! But how much is this going to cost? Well, we’re talking about full decarbonisation of our heating network with the end goal of reaching zero carbon emissions. So, it’s is going to be very costly!

A complete conversion will more than likely take the form of electric heating, hyrdogen gas replacing natural gas and electric heat pumps wherever applicable! Electric heating will see an enormous increase in generating electricity, replacing natural gas with hydrogen will need a huge amount of investment and the gas grid will need to be upgraded. Producing hydrogen is also very expensive not to mention that most appliances will need to be changed.

Alternatively, we could still use natural gas and heat pumps for peaks in the winter. Or we could use electric heat pumps and hydrogen, instead of natural gas. There’s always biomass or biomethane as well! Though these solutions will not lead to a zero-carbon heat network, but it will help reduce our emissions significantly!

 

So, thank you very much for reading this post! We hope you have a great day!

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