As we travel towards net-zero 2050, crucial developments are due to take place in 2022 with the adoption and implementation of key policies on low carbon technologies for home heating and hot water. To date, the government has taken a heat pump-first approach, with plans to significantly increase uptake of heat pump installations.
However, the likelihood of a multifaceted approach to decarbonisation through the use of various low carbon technologies is becoming stronger, with the case for hydrogen and hybrid alternatives being well made.
So, how will electrification and its alternatives shape the decarbonisation landscape in the coming months? Currently, there are a number of gaps in government policy. Much of the focus is on the heat source, such as heat pumps and boilers. However, there is little to no focus on hot water cylinders, and recognition for the vital part they play in the efficient operation of low carbon heating.
The market for heat pumps in the UK is quite small today, with only 32,000 sold in 2020, and 41,000 in 2021. The government’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution aims to increase this to 600,000 annually by 2028.
To support this, the government are considering several policies. These include a market mechanism for boiler manufacturers, a ban on the replacement of LPG and oil boiler installations from 2026 onwards, and a likely policy for retrofit properties within local authority ownership to make the move to heat pumps during renovation.
For homeowners, the government Boiler Upgrade Scheme, due to begin in April 2022, will allow homeowners to apply for an upfront grant of £5,000 to exchange their boiler for a new heat pump.
Perhaps the most promising indicator for increased heat pump installations is the Future Homes Standard proposal of a 75%-80% reduction in CO2 emissions for newbuild properties, when compared to a house built to the 2018 Building Regulations standards.
The most likely solution to achieve this for most homes will be with an air or ground source heat pump, with high density housing, such as apartments, moving to district heating and heat interface units. This is estimated to increase heat pump volumes to around 250,000 annually, with the majority being air source types.
However, in addition to meeting multi-outlet demand, storage systems are essential partners to any low carbon input as the heat produced needs to be harvested and stored. But, as of yet, the government has not included hot water storage in any net-zero policy.
Heat pumps are not the only technology showing promise as a low carbon home heating alternative. Hydrogen continues to demonstrate potential and is set to be factored into government plans alongside heat pumps.
Boiler manufacturers are actively involved in government-supported hydrogen trials to prove both its safety and practicality, along with ease of installation and customer acceptability.
Trials have been in place across the UK since September 2020. In Gateshead, a 100% hydrogen home has been running since April 2021, while a separate trial of 300 homes in Fife, Scotland is due to commence 2022/23, also running a 100% hydrogen supply.
The case for hybrids
A trial in Milford Haven has recently launched, demonstrating a hydrogen-ready combi boiler connected to a hybrid heat pump system. Hybrid alternatives provide viable options, especially for existing homes where full heat pump installation may pose challenges in both cost and practicality.
We challenge the government to consider hybrid heat pump installations as a solution to this.
Trials from the UK and the Netherlands show that a heat pump can provide home heating for around 70% of the year, with a boiler supporting heating in the depths of winter. The government acknowledges this as an option.
The Hybrid Heat Pump Coalition plans to continue its support of hybrid alternatives throughout 2022, with more evidence gathering via key interviews with hybrid heat pump users on their efficacy.
In summary, low carbon technologies are set to gather interest significantly throughout 2022. It is likely we will see a spread of technologies across heat pumps, hydrogen, and hybrids in the bid for net-zero 2050, in order to provide suitable solutions for every home. It’s worth noting, however, most currently available low carbon heating solutions require a hot water cylinder, so it will be interesting to see how the market progresses.
Government must now ensure that homeowners, local authorities, and social landlords are educated on all of the options available to them, as well as on the benefits and potential of hot water storage.
In addition, homeowners should be able to access incentives if they wish to replace their hot water cylinder, with no stipulation on the type of system they can choose, other than it being a suitable replacement.
Omitting hot water storage from net-zero policy is an oversight of disastrous proportions.
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