Cadent has mapped out how the industry can rise to the challenge of transitioning 22mn homes to low carbon heat by 2050.
On 20 July, it published Green Print – Future Heat for Everyone, setting out the scale of the challenge ahead, stressing the need for a “mosaic of low carbon heating solutions” and outlining 12 steps to realise the transition. These steps form its “Green Print”, a roadmap for low carbon heating that seeks to balance the key technical, consumer and economic considerations with a particular focus on the role of hydrogen.
Presenting the task as one of “unprecedented scale”, it drew on estimates of the Climate Change Committee (CCC) which has forecast £250bn of investment will be needed to upgrade insulation and heating in homes, as well as provide the necessary infrastructure.
Around 80% of homes that exist in 2050 have already been built and their energy performance remains relatively poor – 61% of the housing stock is rated EPC “D” or lower. Therefore, the challenge ahead will equate to the equivalent of retrofitting 67,000 homes every month, or 800,000 per year, between now and 2050.
To prove the technical case, hydrogen must be shown to be safe in the gas network and at home, while action must be taken to enable the development of a hydrogen economy. This can be done through setting production targets; developing production and carbon capture and storage business models; supporting industrial cluster development; accelerating hydrogen blending; mandating hydrogen-ready appliances; and upgrading the gas network. It also cited prioritising innovation and injecting pace into building infrastructure as key.
When it comes to ensuring consumer wants and needs are properly considered, it called for them to be central to decisions on the future of heat and for unnecessary “format wars” to end. For example, the continuous argument between hydrogen boilers and heat pumps is unhelpful and the debate should, instead, focus on how both can be delivered. Other key steps here involve understanding consumer views on heating and being upfront with them on how much the transition ill cost, as well as how it will be paid for.
Finally, to ensure robust economic decisions, it stressed the need for a market design and regulatory framework that incentivises industry to invest; to stop planning in silos and, instead, coordinate local area plans for decarbonisation across power and gas; to plan for peak demand, not average demand; and deepen understanding of the critical economic factors that will determine the energy mix.
It explained that while hydrogen is not available for homes today, there is enough information to see it will be an option in future and a necessary one. However, there is a lack of certainty on the extent of the role it will play, which will be determined by how a range of factors change over time. Therefore, it will be crucial to refine analysis as and when new information emerges.