The emissions factor of carbon released into the atmosphere per kWh currently stands at 181g. For comparison, in 2013 this figure stood at over 500g. I’m not sure whether this statement makes me sound old or not, but I can remember this time clearly. I was working as the senior product manager at Mitsubishi Electric’s heating division and my time was split largely between launching new products to enthusiastic installers and grabbing multiple coffees on my way to Whitehall.
The topic in the headlights at the time with The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) (now the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS)) was heat pumps. I remember spending my days persuading stakeholders that heat pumps produced marginally lower carbon emissions than a gas boiler and that, as the grid gets cleaner, their investment would deliver more carbon savings each year. At the time it seemed too good to be true, that a local authority, a hotel chain, a homeowner, or the Government would invest in a technology that would produce less and less carbon ever year.
At this point, I feel like Doc Brown in Back to the Future Part II. However, here we are in 2021 with no hoverboards or flying cars, but an astonishingly low carbon grid and, I am told, self-tying shoes too! The investment in off-shore wind is delivering huge reductions in carbon and the closing down of coal power plants, with now only a few left, was an obvious stepping stone in this journey.
David MacKay, for those who remember him and his book ‘Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air’, believed that the grid would get cleaner, and electrifying the end use through heat pumps, electric cars etc. would enable an enormous amount of flexibility in the way we produce power. After working at Ecuity, now a Gemserv company, my conversations with clients and colleagues have swung from persuading them that these low carbon technologies are the future to this becoming a reality that we are managing and progressing.
We are here today in the future that was predicted many years ago, and I think it’s good to sit back every now and again to recognise the achievements we’ve made, I’m even allowing myself a little smile.
Originally published on the Ecuity blog, Friday, 5th March 2021.