A recent thermal energy conference has emphasised the importance of the UK government’s new focus on decarbonising heat.
And renewable experts – led by Glasgow-based Star Renewable Energy – are urging energy users to invest in renewable heating technology for the future while government incentives to support the uptake of heat-pumps last.
Industrial sized district heat-pumps – which draw warmth from the air, rivers, lakes, the sea and the ground – are expected to play a key role in achieving COP21 carbon reduction targets because “they are the only proven, viable technology capable of delivering zero carbon heat in a large scale”,
Moving away from combustion technologies will help current policies get back on track to meet the UK’s carbon commitments. Jonathan Graham, head of policy for the Association for Decentralised Energy, differentiated between technologies that save CO2 in the medium-term such as Gas CHP and those that fully integrate with the grid’s natural decarbonisation progression, making heatpumps a long-term and potentially zero carbon solution.
For Trevor Whittaker of Aqualor, who took installation and operational costs into account, heatpumps are also a financially sound solution, “heatpumps have higher installation cost than a gas CHP but much lower operational costs at only 4% of capex and will last well beyond 20 years”.
Nicky Cowan, Technical Engineer, Star Renewable Energy, highlighted a number of incentives and benefits heat-pumps offer.
He said: “Proven renewable heating technologies that avoid burning gas, particularly large district heat pumps, are becoming one of the most talked about topics for governments and increasingly recognised as the best way to combat climate change.
“We have shown efficiencies far in excess of those used to model energy systems. This and the rapidly decarbonised electricity grid show large heat-pumps to be a solid performer now that only get even better as the grid totally decarbonises.
“According to the Committee on Climate Change, heating may have to almost fully decarbonise if the UK is to hit its long-term goal of an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050”.
As well as the decarbonisation of heating technologies by 2050, all new investment in heating will have to be zero carbon by 2035 in order to meet the ambitious target. The Committee on Climate Change has already identified a gap of approximately 100 MtCO2e between the likely reductions from current plans and the reductions required by the fifth carbon budget.
In recognising this shortfall, the government has committed to come up with an ‘emissions reduction plan’ to address decarbonising of heat, later this year.
Dave Pearson, Director, Star Renewable Energy, added: “Despite ignoring the cooling opportunities from large heat-pumps and using quite pessimistic efficiencies, Government research shows the future heating demand will be mostly met by heat-pumps.
“Whilst gas being very cheap and electricity taxed more heavily are counter-productive, the RHI makes heat-pumps a future-proof investment.
“Universities and large estates such as airports have focussed on electrical decarbonisation, largely ignoring heating and cooling. When the government support of the RHI ceases beyond 2021 they will have to invest in the technology but with no financial support.”
Thomas Nowak, Secretary General of the European Heat Pump Association, added: “Heating and cooling are responsible for 50% of the energy demand used in Europe today. We also know that heat-pumps can efficiently provide both at the same time.
“So the only logical conclusion is that heat-pumps become a central part of the decarbonisation of the system in order to realistically deliver COP21 carbon targets”.
Star Renewable Energy is currently focused on heat-pumps, although other forms of low carbon or alternative energy may be added to the unit.
Greater use of renewable energy heat-pumps in de-carbonising the heating sector has already been proposed for inclusion in the government’s forthcoming new Scottish Energy Strategy by Scotland’s Renewable Future Forum, organised by Scottish Energy News. For details see;
Scotland’s Renewable Future forum delivers draft new Scottish Energy Strategy