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INDUSTRY COMMENT: ECA


ECA’s director of CSR, Paul Reeve, examines the implicaons for the built environment of the government’s announcement that it will pursue a legally binding target of zero net carbon emissions by 2050


stonishingly, the UK government has just agreed with the recent recommendations of the Committee for Climate Change (CCC) and it aims to pursue a ‘zero net carbon’ economy. The CCC’s report*, issued at the beginning of May, points the way to achieving a remarkable 96 per cent cut in greenhouse gases (GHG) by 2050, across the following areas of the economy: power and hydrogen; buildings; industry; transport (all types); agriculture; waste; F-gas emissions; and greenhouse gas (GHG) removal.


Buildings: Gas out, heat pumps and hydrogen in


A key target area for the CCC recommendations is buildings, where the persistent challenge that would need to be overcome is delivering low-carbon heating.


The electrification of energy, based on a massively decarbonised grid, has a central role in the CCC recommendations for the built environment. In addition, smart building control systems (e.g. controlling EV charging and hybrid heat pumps) will be needed to help manage increased electricity demand and maximise renewable energy use. The CCC


recommendations for buildings also


A zero carbon UK by 2050? A


hinge on a massive roll-out of heat pumps, hybrid heat pumps and even hydrogen boilers in new and existing premises (supplementing or replacing gas boilers). This would be supported by urban district heating, smart storage heating and high levels of energy efficiency. Energy efficiency alone cannot deliver a net zero carbon UK. Even so, it’s a great place to start and in many cases it is the most cost effective measure. As such, the CCC adds that “an energy efficiency retrofit of the 29 million homes across the UK should be a national infrastructure priority.” However, any planned programme will clearly need to be far more successful than the failed ‘Green Deal’ retrofit scheme.


In the CCC report, hybrid (dual fuel) heat pumps would be used to optimise the use of renewable energy in buildings, and a 2018 government report suggests there may be lower carbon abatement costs compared to standard heat pumps. All this proposed activity would boost current low-carbon heating from only 4.5 per cent of buildings to a game-changing 90 per cent by 2050, but at a high average abatement cost of around £140/tCO2e (non-residential cost £95/tCO2e). The total cost of installing the measures above, along with decarbonising the grid, could ramp up to tens of billions of pounds annually, though the CCC suggests that cost reductions would


accompany deployment at scale, as seen for example by offshore wind.


Government policy and investment


To achieve UK-wide scale, the government will need to provide a policy framework for building decarbonisation that includes a fully- fledged strategy for decarbonised heat in 2020. It will also need to deliver on the ‘Future Homes’ standard (ensuring new build has low-carbon heating and excellent energy efficiency by 2025, with ambitious standards for new non- residential buildings).


Meanwhile, the Treasury will need to work with BEIS to provide not just direction, regulation and standards, but imaginative fiscal measures, including significant initial funding. Although the CCC report relies on using feasible technology, the UK is also well short of the infrastructure, supply and installation capacity needed to introduce low-carbon heating at scale. For example, the report acknowledges the need to move from 20,000 heat pump installations annually to around a million a year (a fifty-fold increase in UK installation capacity), overcoming poor customer awareness and nascent market development on the way. Meanwhile, building a hydrogen boiler infrastructure in 15 years, and


BSEE


from a standing start, is a tall order. Interestingly, the contribution of BIM, whole-life building performance and even the circular economy was not included in the otherwise comprehensive CCC report, but these processes and approaches could also help to unlock the type of carbon reductions needed in the years ahead.


www.eca.co.uk


*The CCC’s 275-page report ‘Net Zero: The UK contribution to stopping global warming’ is at: www.theccc.org.uk/wp- content/uploads/2019/05/Net-Zero-The- UKs-contribution-to-stopping-global- warming.pdf


Read the latest at: www.bsee.co.uk


BUILDING SERVICES & ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEER JULY 2019 15


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