Improving efficiency of UK homes key to meeting UK climate targets


Researchers have released a report on decarbonising how we heat our homes

A report has concluded that 25 million homes need major work in the coming years to help reduce the UK's carbon emissions from heating our households.

The Paris Agreement means the UK has committed to meet targets on many climate initiatives including reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The country has already taken steps to decarbonise electricity and researchers from the Imperial College Centre for Energy Policy and Technology think the next target should be the heating sector.

Their latest report Managing Heat System Decarbonisation [PDF] is aimed at the energy used in the UK to heat our homes, which adds up to almost 25% of the country’s carbon emissions. Reducing these emissions would make it easier for the UK to meet its targets to be a low-carbon economy by 2050. The report covers a number of areas that will play a large part including energy efficiency and demand; national and local infrastructure; and governance.

The UK’s housing stock is one particular area of concern as many older buildings use significant amounts of energy just to keep them heated. With 90% of today’s homes still in use in 2050 the report found that there are 25 million existing homes that will need significant work over the next decades.

“Although 25 million homes seems to be an almost insurmountable target, we believe it can be done,” says Dr Keith MacLean, the lead author of the report, “We just need to start as soon as possible and have long term planning, strategies and investment in infrastructure.”

Alongside this the team believe that local authorities could play a bigger role in the process. In the UK there is currently a vacuum for decision making and delivery in the heat sector. It is here where regional and city governance could step in if given the resources and legal powers to do so.

The report also discusses the final piece of the jigsaw, national and local heating infrastructure. Previous work has focussed on replacing domestic gas boilers with electric. The report goes further and examines a wide range of options including repurposing existing gas grids for use with hydrogen, the electrification of heat production and the use of energy efficient, low carbon district heating. 

“I think the take home message of the report is that each of the infrastructure solutions studied has a role to play, but none is a silver bullet,” explains Dr MacLean, “What we would like to see is early pilot developments to help inform decision makers decisions about the various solutions.”

Ultimately the team believe that the choice of options and the rate of deployment will probably be determined by non-financial impacts, any disruption caused by the transition and customer acceptance issues, rather than by simple economics.

The full report [PDF] is available to download alongside the other reports written by the Imperial College Centre for Energy Policy and Technology on related topics.


Neasan O'Neill

Neasan O'Neill
Faculty of Engineering

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