Think Tank Says No to Renewable Heat

While many are looking forward to the rise of the heat pump in the next few years, think tank Policy Exchange has decided to throw a spanner in the works. Not only do they say that heat pumps aren’t all they’re cracked up to be but that focusing on them and similar tech is the wrong strategy.

It’s much better to focus on energy savings and decarbonising our gas supply by using solutions such as bio-methane, say the group, adding in an interview to the Carbon Trust:

“…electric heat pumps look like a very expensive way to decarbonise domestic heating…In general, I think that many people have underestimated quite how difficult and expensive it would be to bring about a widespread conversion of heating to electric heat pumps.”

It’s thought that installing greener heating technology in all our homes is going to cost the tax payer around £12,000 each. This represents a total of £200 billion with another £100 billion on top for additional electricity. One of the major problems, of course, is that we have to meet certain targets for reducing our carbon emissions and this can’t be done without tackling the issue of heating.

When we still had the Department of Energy and Climate Change, Amber Rudd admitted that these targets were not going to be reached in a leaked email. Since then, the Government has been panicking about how it is going to turn things around in time for 2020. Switching to green heating seemed like a perfectly reasonable approach. As with most solutions concerning the current Government, the message has quickly become confused and there seems to have been the usual lack of preplanning and thought put into the process.

There is nothing wrong with putting up subsidies for technology like heat pumps and moving us to a less carbon dependent heating system. Across Europe, heat pumps and similar technology are much more popular than they are in the UK, particularly in areas such as Sweden and Norway. The problem is that the only reason for the UK Government focusing on them seems to be their rush to get that carbon reduction target down.

It’s likely that the rise in feed in tariffs for renewable heating such as heat pumps will go ahead which is good news for many domestic and commercial property owners who want to lower their own carbon footprints. The tech is also developing and heat pumps capable of creating much higher levels of warmth in the home (including heating up the water) could well be just around the corner.

According to Ofgem, the number of renewable heating systems given the go ahead reached 50,000 in July and awareness and popularity is apparently growing. Increases to the RHI could see a major shift in our heating if it gains more traction, with many of us starting to move away from costly and high carbon emitting gas boilers.

Does it need to happen by 2020? It’s clear that this is the focus of the current Government but it’s unlikely to happen. According to renewable energy expert for Yorkshire Heat Pumps, Kate Wright, though, we’d be foolish to pass up this opportunity to decarbonise our heating:

“In the last year we definitely noticed an uplift as confidence in the economy grew, and now it’s even more appealing to choose cost-efficient heating systems. Going green cannot just save money in the long term by lower operating costs but can, in many cases, more than recoup the cost of the installation with RHI.”


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