A new law is to be introduced by the government which states that UK carbon emissions will be down 78% by 2035 (based on 1990 levels).
It’s hoped that this latest target – which will be made into law in June 2021 – will accelerate the race for the UK to be net-zero by 2050.
As home heating accounts for around 15% of all UK carbon emissions, the way we heat our homes could change significantly in the coming years.
Following the announcement, Business & Energy Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng said: “The UK is leading the world in tackling climate change and today’s announcement means our low carbon future is now in sight. The targets we’ve set ourselves in the sixth Carbon Budget will see us go further and faster than any other major economy to achieve a completely carbon neutral future.
“This latest target shows the world that the UK is serious about protecting the health of our planet, while also seizing the new economic opportunities it will bring and capitalising on green technologies – yet another step as we build back greener from the pandemic and we lead the world towards a cleaner, more prosperous future for this generation and those to come.”
What’s the future for home heating?
Home heating accounts for around 15% of all UK carbon emissions. This is because 85% of homes are heated by a gas boiler while many of the remaining 15% rely on oil and LPG. All of these are fossil fuels which emit carbon into the atmosphere when burned.
As a result, low-carbon alternatives, such as heat pumps and hydrogen boilers, are being lined up to replace fossil fuels. However, the picture for the future of home heating still remains unclear.
Heat pumps are a renewable heating system which captures heat from the air or ground (depending whether it’s an air source or ground source heat pump). They run on electricity and don’t emit carbon as they work to heat the home.
While this sounds ideal, they’re not practical for all homes. Some outdoor space is essential and to feel full benefit the property must be well insulated. Plus, replacing millions of boilers right across the country with a heat pump would be impractical and expensive.
So instead of replacing our proven heating systems, we could see a future where they burn a different fuel. Enter hydrogen.
When burned, hydrogen only produces heat, water and vapour. No carbon. And modern gas boilers can still work on a hydrogen blend of 20% hydrogen and 80% natural gas which would help to significantly lower carbon emissions.
If hydrogen is to be pursued, the end goal would be a complete switch to a hydrogen gas network. Leading manufacturers Worcester Bosch and Baxi are already calling for this and have developed their own hydrogen-ready boilers.
While we have contenders for the low-carbon future of home heating, the government must commit to a clear direction. Otherwise, we will fail to meet carbon targets.