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Heat Decarbonisation Could Spur Green Recovery

The decarbonisation of heat refers to reducing the amount of carbon produced by heating systems. This involves switching to low carbon heating systems in order to provide homes with ‘clean’ heat.

A new report published by the Net Zero Infrastructure Industry Coalition explores the scale of infrastructure change needed to achieve net zero heat.

The challenge is such that urgent action is required, but the transition to net zero heat offers tremendous opportunities and could lead to the development of completely new industries offering large scale employment and economic growth across the United Kingdom.

Written by a group of forward-thinking United Kingdom businesses and public sector organisations, The Path To Zero Carbon Heat report provides pathways for decarbonising the heating of Britain’s homes and workplaces by 2050 – responsible for 20% of the United Kingdom’s greenhouse gas footprint.

The report does not prescribe a specific route to net zero heat, but all scenarios considered present challenges. All require taking technologies such as CCS and auto-thermal reforming from pilot stage or infancy, through to readiness in the late 2020s, through to mass deployment starting in 2030 and continuing to 2050.

This represents an enormous challenge in infrastructure deployment previously unseen in the United Kingdom.

The development of infrastructure will need to be accelerated quickly and maintained. For example, the massive scale of electrical generation capacity as part of the electrification scenario represents deployment of renewable technology at close to 10GW/year – scales of deployment with few historic precedents.

Deployment for end user heating systems themselves will also happen at a tremendous rate with conversions of over one million sites in each year in some scenarios.

The changeover to Net-Zero heat requires a complex mixture of national, regional and city involvement, systems thinking and extensive digitalisation. Getting this mixture right could radically reduce cost and delivery times, and requires all stakeholder to take action in the near term.

New skills need be developed, with a refocus of existing expertise. This will require a change in mindset, to think ahead of time and put in place the infrastructure to develop those skills.

The Path To Zero Carbon Heat has been led by Mott MacDonald with support from a working group comprising Energy Systems Catapult, Engie, Leeds City Council, National Grid, Pinsent Masons, Delta-EE, University of Leeds, the United Kingdom Collaboratorium for Research on Infrastructure and Cities and the United Kingdom Green Building Council.

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