Urgent action by the government is being demanded by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) in its recent next steps for UK heat policy document, which states that progress on meeting the targets within the Climate Change Act and last year’s Paris Agreement “has stalled”.
With UK buildings accounting for 40% of energy consumption and 20% of our greenhouse gas emissions, heating and plumbing installers have an important part to play in helping to achieve the various goals that the government is obliged to meet.
The CCC says the government needs to decide on increasing the use of hydrogen, which can be distributed through the existing gas grid. This will be a major step in reducing our reliance on fossil fuels.
Questions over how hydrogen will be produced in sufficient quantities to replace the use of natural gas will have to be addressed, of course, and with no infrastructure in place this seems the least likely of the recommendations to be implemented and therefore not deserving of immediate attention.
For properties off the gas grid, the CCC says there needs to be much more focus on the use of heat pumps. With installation figures of around 20,000 recorded over the last few years, the report says this needs to be increased to one million per annum.
In addition to improving energy efficiency in both new and existing building stock, the CCC further recommends more focus on the use of district heating schemes.
These generate heat from a central source, typically using heat interface units (HIUs) in each dwelling or building.
Installers will therefore need to gain expertise in the fitting of HIUs and possibly also meters, depending on the means of distribution and methods for monitoring usage employed by each district heating scheme.
Another option recommended for consideration is injecting biomethane into the gas network to drive the use of low carbon heating. While the quantities suggested are unlikely to require any immediate adjustment to boilers, heating engineers should contact boiler manufacturers for advice should this become a reality.
Another element for heating and plumbing companies to consider is improving the energy efficiency of buildings of all types, not just because the CCC report recommends it, but due to the fact that this is a major factor in areas including government legislation and incentives.
There have been numerous cases of heating systems being over-sized and then failing to work efficiently, but this can easily be avoided if all aspects of the building are considered and the system designed and installed correctly.
If heating and plumbing engineers also acquire greater understanding of how to make buildings more energy efficient, this will deliver further benefits to both their clients – who will enjoy lower energy bills – and is also likely to generate more business, as more work will be required.
The recommendations within the CCC report are a good indication on the advice being given to the government to assist in forming the strategy required to meet the UK’s commitments, and can be used to help heating and plumbing companies to form their own plans to ensure their business does not get left behind.
Heating and plumbing companies requiring more technical information on the impact of the UK heat policy should contact their preferred trade association or relevant industry organisation.
Top 5 recommendations for heating and plumbing businesses
- Companies operating in off-gas grid areas should consider up skilling engineers to install heat pumps
- Those in urban areas should familiarise themselves with district heating systems
- Ensure engineers can calculate the heat loss of buildings
- Advise customers on how to make their properties more energy efficient
- Look out for incentive schemes for heat pumps, district heating systems, etc
The full version of the report can be found here: https://www.theccc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Next-steps-for-UK-heat-policy-Committee-on-Climate-Change-October-2016.pdf