How we heat our homes has to change « ETI

Posted 15 October 2014 by Energy Technologies Institute in Research and Development, Smarter Networks, Technology Innovation

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How we heat our homes has to change

Grant Bourhill of the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) discusses creating future-proof and economic local heating solutions for the UK

The challenge of reducing emissions from the domestic building stock is huge. They account for around a quarter of the UK’s overall CO2 emissions. Domestic heating accounts for almost 20%. By 2050, the emissions will need to be dramatically reduced through a cost-effective combination of increased efficiency and decarbonisation of energy supply.

Around 85% of the existing domestic housing stock of 26m homes will still be in use in 2050. Investment of £10,000 per building for thermal fabric improvement would cost in excess of £200bn, while still leaving a need for significant investment in low carbon energy supplies. The scale of investment, as well as the lifetime of the developed assets, is sufficiently large that decision makers will benefit from design tools allowing the impact of choices to be visible ahead of investment decisions.It is also recognised that while the bulk of domestic heating in the UK today is delivered via gas, future low carbon energy supply approaches will be varied, and the most practical, cost-effective heating solution in any one area will depend upon a number of factors specific to that individual location. Urban solutions will be different to suburban solutions which will in turn be different to rural solutions. As a result geographically tailored solutions will be required across the country.

The ETI is developing software modelling tools in partnership with local authorities across the UK to help design of local energy systems as part of its Smart Systems & Heat (SSH) programme. The software tools identify cost-effective approaches to domestic emissions reductions, balancing enhanced energy efficiency measures with decarbonisation of energy supply and complement national energy system modelling tools. They will be available from 2015.

Transitioning all of the UK’s housing stock to a low carbon supply will naturally be easier if residents perceive significant value or benefit. There is a real need to understand consumer’s underpinning energy needs.

For the last year, we have monitored 30 households, collecting data across a range of factors. Early hypothesis from the work has been tested further in a household quantitative survey with approximately 3,000 households. Early indications from this work show that cost is not the only focus in the consumption of heat. We plan to develop domestic value propositions from this work, which will be demonstrated at scale in a later part of the programme.

At its culmination this programme will help to create industry and investor confidence in implementing improvements to how we heat the UK. This will be through consumer centric value propositions, supported by innovative business models and technologies, within a framework of supporting policy.

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This blog was written specially for Professional Engineering magazine.