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National Grid opens debate about low carbon option

Gas Users Organisation, the consumer group representing domestic gas customers, asks when will the views of ordinary families be taken into account when debating the future for low carbon heating.





The recently published Future Energy Scenarios Report from National Grid poses different pathways towards net zero by 2050. They label these scenarios “Consumer Transformation”, “System Transformation” and “Leading the Way”.


They also offer a comparator scenario of “Steady Progression”.


Andrew Newman, Technical Director of the Gas Users Organisation, explained:


“There are two very positive aspects of this report, first the confidence that by taking the right technical and economic measures, and also be making changes to our behaviour, then the UK can achieve Net Zero. Secondly, the acknowledgement that there is a need for a strategic public debate about what our priorities are, and that there are different ways that net zero can be achieved.


“The National Grid’s Future Energy Scenarios Report observes that currently 15% of the UK’s carbon emissions comes from electricity and gas in the home. This need to be put into the context of the UK contributing less that 1% of all global carbon emissions. We all agree with the objective of meeting net zero by 2050, but we also need a sense of proportionality about how much individual households should be expected to pay in cold hard cash, compared to the scale of the impact it would have on reducing overall global emissions.


“While National Grid should be congratulated on presenting the different scenarios so clearly, naturally the comparisons between their four “out of the box” scenarios, don’t make it easy to consider the impact of taking a “mix-and-match approach”. For example, their “Customer transformation model” includes home insulation, and a shift to heat pumps, while the “system transformation” model includes hydrogen gas boilers, but less insulation.


"On this basis, “customer transformation” performs better (in energy usage terms) than “system transformation”. But what if we had both better insulation, and hydrogen boilers? Suddenly the gap is much closer. What if we took into account the preferences of consumers not to have the disruption of having a heat pump fitted, an expensive refit of new, larger radiators and water tanks, and the impact of higher fuel bills? Suddenly, “System Transformation” looks better.


“National Grid’s “Steady Progression” scenario also assumes that hydrogen will be blended into the existing grid, but does not seem to allow for the injection of biomethane produced from municipal waste, which would be carbon negative. Once we do this, then “steady progression” has much better performance. (Biomethane is chemically the same as the natural gas we use now, but made from renewable sources)


“The “Customer Transformation” option prefers heat pumps, and heat networks. Interestingly the “Leading the Way” scenario makes less use of heat pumps, and more use of hydrogen gas boilers.


"Most UK consumers are not really aware of heat pumps yet, this is a relatively efficient form of electric heating, but most customers would find them more expensive to run than gas. To work effectively, older homes would need an expensive and disruptive refit, with new larger radiators, or underfloor heating.


"Heat pumps are much more expensive to fit than gas boilers, around £9000 for an air sourced heat pump, and around twice that for a ground source heat pump. A report from Element Energy for the government on heat pumps concluded that in all scenarios considered, heat pumps had higher life- time costs for consumers than gas heating.


“We very much welcome the need for a debate implied by the Future Energy Scenarios report, but we believe that the views and interests of households needs to be taken into account, before decisions are made that they will be expected to pay for.”

NOTES FOR EDITORS


The Gas Users Organisation C.I.C. is a recently formed community interest company established to operate for the benefit of the 24 million households who use domestic gas, and for individual engineers registered with Gas Safe.

https://www.gas-users.org/


Contact: Andrew Newman CEng MIET, Technical Director, on 0754 0859 227

Or email Andrew.newman@gas-users.org CBI report, https://www.cbi.org.uk/articles/net-zero-the-road-to-low-carbon-heat/, published 22/07/202


See National Grid Press office for details of the report that was embargoed until 27th July 2020.


The FES report from national Grid observes (page 32),

“Currently, residential demand for electricity and natural gas from the UK’s 29.1 million homes makes up almost 15% of the UKs total carbon emissions, consuming approximately 415 TWh/annum. On average, each home is responsible for emitting four tonnes of CO2 each year, predominantly through how the home is heated and from numerous electrical appliances, ranging from dishwashers and washing machines to TVs and tablets.”

See Energy Networks Association plans on decarbonising the gas network by 2050:


The benefits of a Balanced Transition approach are that it achieves a 90% carbon reduction from today to 2050 and it:

  • Avoids moving an additional 12 million homes completely away from gas– where the highest customer costs are imposed.

  • Allows more choice, and via high uptake of hybrid heat pumps, additional peak generation demand only grows to 24GW rather than the 48GW under E&HN.

  • Avoids decommissioning the entire residential gas network (total cost of £4bn).

  • Could reduce the additional investment in electricity distribution networks (capex & opex, discounted, over 2012–2050) by £8bn (or more if smart solutions are not rolled out).

  • Avoids pushing heat networks out as far into suburbia – 3 million fewer homes are required to switch to district heating.

https://www.energynetworks.org/gas/futures/overview.html

Report on the performance of heat pumps for BEIS, “Hybrid heat pumps study”, Element Energy, for Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/hybrid-heat-pumps-study (April 2018)


The report by Element Energy for BEIS evaluates the upfront costs of Hybrid heat pump (HP), HP and gas boiler heating systems for a typical semidetached house.


Their report shows (in 2016 prices):)

i) a conventional gas boiler as typically costing £1570

ii) a stand alone HP costing £8975

iii) a HHP with high T emitters between £6170 and £6725

iv) a HHP with low T emitters costing £8525

See previous Gas Users statement on heat pumps: https://www.gas-users.org/post/new-heat-pump-charter-is-welcome


The government has been encouraging the roll out of heat pumps through a subsidy called the Renewable Heat Initiative (RHI), and by January 2020, a whopping £141.9 million in subsidies has been paid under the Domestic Renewable Heat Initiative (RHI) scheme towards 5812 ground source heat pumps. An average subsidy of £24,415 per installation, with further subsidies towards air sourced heat pumps.

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