According to the Department of Energy and Climate Change, the scale of the challenge is huge:
* Almost half of the energy consumed in the UK is used to generate heat for buildings and water, in cooking food and manufacturing goods or to keep offices and homes cool in hot weather *
The vast majority of the UK’s heat is produced by burning fossil fuels – currently around a third of the UK’s carbon emissions come from the energy used to produce heat, more than from generating electricicty
Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey said: “Cutting emissions from the way we generate heat is essential if we are to meet our climate change and renewables targets.
“Many towns, cities and communities across the UK are already switching from fossil fuels to low carbon forms of heating like biomass, heat pumps and solar thermal.
“I want to give the opportunity to others to follow the pioneers so that, in time, our buildings are no longer dependent on burning fossil fuels for heat but using affordable and reliable alternatives to help create a flourishing, competitive low carbon manufacturing industry.
“I welcome views on this plan to ensure government and industry can work together towards a sustainable, affordable and low carbon energy future.”
The strategy includes a range of different low carbon heat case studies, including one in Nottingham which is home to one of the largest district heating networks in the UK. The 65km network now serves more than 4,600 homes and over 100 businesses and public sector properties – roughly 3.5% of the city’s entire heat consumption.
The Heat Strategy builds on the government’s Carbon Plan which was published last December. It looks at heat use across the different sectors in the economy, provides supporting evidence and real-life case studies and asks specific questions on future policy options.
Achieving this transition to low carbon heat will mean changes across the UK’s economy over the coming decades, with different solutions required in different areas.
As the Carbon Plan set out, the strategy is split into three different stages:
* This decade – Government’s focus for both buildings and industry will be on energy efficiency and preparing the market by driving early take up of renewable heat, building the supply chain and supporting innovation
* The 2020s and 2030s – Uptake of low carbon heat technologies will need to be widespread in homes and businesses. Government’s focus will be on creating the right frameworks to support the market and minimise costs to consumers and industry
* The long term – The government will increasingly focus on helping consumers and businesses tackle more challenging areas of low carbon heat where more innovation may be needed. By 2050, heat for buildings will need to be entirely carbon-free, which means a range of renewable options like heat pumps in buildings as well as a bigger role for low carbon heat networks in cities.
The Government says it is interested in understanding more about the potential of low carbon heat networks, which pipe heat directly into homes instead of requiring the home owner to burn gas or oil in their own boiler.
It claims heat networks can play an increasingly important role in the move to low carbon heating, but there are many practical hurdles to be overcome first, including knowing where the best locations to site these systems are.
DECC has now launched the new interactive National Heat Map, an online website aimed at helping planners to identify potential areas for district heating networks.
The new map, developed for DECC by the Centre for Sustainable Energy, will allow planners to visualise the potential for heat networks in their area. This lays the foundation for further feasibility studies to initiate large scale projects where they are most effective.
The map uses cutting edge data modelling techniques and DECC’s comprehensive national datasets, making it the most advanced map of its kind.
The government says it has already taken great strides to cut carbon in heat with the introduction of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) for industrial and commercial customers up and running from November last year.
The RHI for householders will be consulted on in September with a launch looking set for summer next year. A second phase of the Premium Payment scheme will offer money off renewable kit for householders in the meantime.