The CBI’s Energy and Climate Change team is campaigning on three key issues this year that members have expressed a need for clarity and action on. Delivering a smart, flexible low-carbon power system; supporting the delivering of the infrastructure and incentives needed for low-carbon transport; and action on low-carbon heat and improved energy efficiency.
The challenge of making our homes and buildings low-carbon is perhaps the most challenging of these priorities, and it is where the least amount of progress has been made so far. Heat is the largest source of carbon emissions in the UK, accounting for over a third, and there is no clear plan from government on how to tackle this. In order for the UK to meet its climate commitments, we need to accelerate action on decarbonising heat in buildings and industrial processes. The target recommended by the Committee on Climate Change to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 is only possible if we deliver deep decarbonisation across this sector.
With just three decades to make this change happen, we need the technologies to be further developed and policies put in place to facilitate deployment across the country. Thankfully, there are already a range of technology-options, such as using blends of low-carbon hydrogen or biogas to reduce the carbon emissions of our current system – perhaps a short-term measure. Meanwhile, installing new heat pumps, or hybrid boilers in peoples’ homes appears a necessity in the long-run, which will ultimately involve replacing existing boilers and appliances in over 26 million homes. District heating systems are another solution, and will work in certain regions where there is a large enough population, or industrial processes that produce waste heat that can then be captured and re-used. We will need to use all these options and more to overcome this challenge.
The right policy framework needs to be developed, and we expect to hear more from government on their plans next year. The CBI will contribute to this debate and share the expertise of its members to help shape a clear set of regulations and policies that deliver this at best cost to consumers. To kick-start this process, we organised our Decarbonising heat to achieve clean growth roundtable, held on Thursday 30 May in collaboration with KPMG and the University of Birmingham.
Attendees contributed to the discussions around addressing the challenge of heat decarbonisation in achieving a net-zero target. We discussed the technologies, the role of local and national governments in providing the correct policy levers and the key role consumers will play. CBI members also highlighted the cross-sector solutions that they are already developing, which included local trials to determine how much low-carbon gas can be blended into existing supplies before people need to start replacing their existing boilers, cookers and heaters, and research on how much more low-carbon power we will need if we shift millions from gas to electric heating.
The views shared by our members at this event will help inform the ongoing policy work that CBI is taking forward on heat. We will make initial recommendations to government as part of our forthcoming report on the actions needed to decarbonise during the 2020s (due out in November in 2019), followed by a more detailed heat report in early 2020. This will influence decisions being made in Whitehall ahead of a planned heat policy roadmap due in the summer of 2020.
Keep up to speed on our plans by following our campaign updates and policy events throughout the year.