Following the publication of the Committee for Climate Change’s “UK housing: Fit for the future?” report, Mark Wilkins, head of training and external affairs for Vaillant Group UK, weighs in on the climate change debate:
“Pinning the future of the environment on a single type of fuel or technology is too restrictive and is neither viable with our current infrastructure, nor suitable for the diversity in our communities and housing stock. Instead, a more complex approach is required: one that begins with insulation to reduce energy consumption and incorporates multiple technologies, including heat pumps and boilers powered by hydrogen and other green gases, which are bolstered by intelligent heating controls.
“Heat pumps are widely accepted across Europe, particularly in Sweden, where they are installed in most new homes and have been for many years. Powered by electricity, these appliances extract latent heat from the ground or surrounding air to provide heating that is significantly more efficient than traditional fossil fuel boilers. Even with the price disparity between gas and electricity, if correctly installed and commissioned they are cheaper to run than most gas boilers and will provide substantial savings, especially for off-grid homes when displacing oil or LPG which suffer from volatile pricing and are widely viewed as having high carbon emissions.
“However, it is essential to consider the grid capacity to support the increasing demand for electricity. After all, it’s not just heating of the future that will demand electricity – with the 2040 ban on fossil fuel vehicles, cars and other forms of transport will also be vying for their share. To make widespread adoption of heat pumps alongside the increasing use of electric vehicles a feasible option, we must prioritise improving our electricity infrastructure and treat it as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project.
“The use of hydrogen to replace natural gas is another area that Vaillant Group and many other manufacturers are exploring, however, we arguably face more significant challenges to achieve this. The UK does not yet have a viable hydrogen industry that is capable of producing and utilising hydrogen in the required quantities, but there is industry wide commitment to understanding the challenges with many organisations stepping up to the mark to make this a reality.
“And of course, heat networks – with multiple dwellings and possibly commercial buildings supplied from a single heating system – offer a potential solution that will also play an important role in future. There are challenges to overcome, but as with heat pumps, the experience for this type of solution already exists in other parts of Europe.
“The common theme in all options is the infrastructure be it the increasing demand for electricity, developing the industry to support green gases or gaining the experience and skill set for implementing large numbers of heat networks. All players in the supply chain, for all technologies, must work together to realise the crucial infrastructure that decarbonisation relies on.
“It’s crunch time for tackling climate change and we must act swiftly to prevent further impact on the environment. The journey towards a greener, cleaner world will not be an easy one, however we must be prepared for the challenge. Starting to address this issue in new build makes lots of sense since we can design the changes needed into our future homes.”
For more information on Vaillant, visit www.vaillant.co.uk.