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Decarbonising heat needs “value for money” consumer friendly solutions

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The vast majority of British homes have central heating which comprises a boiler with radiators. This has become the system of choice due to a combination of factors, which include the British climate and our housing stock.

Most new heating systems are distress purchases. Your boiler breaks down so you call someone out to repair it only to find out you need a new one. The priority then is to get it done quickly and for the least money. At this time you are totally dependent upon the trusted expert – the installer – and will normally go with their recommendation. For any policy to succeed it must be deployable through this market model.

If you try to get the consumer to buy something different, from someone different and at a much higher cost then you will struggle to effect any worthwhile change. It has to be easy to do, hassle-free, easy to understand and cost effective.

Calor has seen the impact of successful policy interventions, such as the boiler scrappage scheme and mandating condensing boilers, on energy consumption. In the past 10 years our average central heating customer has reduced their fuel usage by over 20% on a weather adjusted basis. The same has happened to natural gas demand in urban areas and we believe this decline is set to continue.

The priority has to be to maintain this downward trend and the good news is that gas technology still has an enormous amount to offer. For example, two thirds of properties still have older non-condensing boilers and therefore still have significant savings available. We are also seeing a raft of exciting new technologies coming on to the market which will further accelerate the decline in energy consumption and carbon emissions and can be used in off gas grid areas as well. These include Flue Gas Heat Recovery, mCHP (micro combined heat and power) and Gas Absorption Heat Pumps – a renewable gas technology.  Repeatedly, carbon reduction methods have been applied without any sensible cost benefit analysis.

So gas technology still has a way to travel and offers the best value for money for both the bill and tax payer.

Low carbon industrial policy

The UK is the largest gas boiler market in Europe and has a huge domestic industry with sector leading companies based here in Britain employing many thousands of people, plus the more than 100,000 heating installers working in peoples’ homes.

Policies which directly support these established British manufacturing and service industries will have the greatest beneficial impact on the economy at large and have the best chance of success. We saw this at first hand with the boiler scrappage scheme which gave a boost to both British manufacturing and the order books of British installers, plus had the added benefit of substantially reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions.

For a policy to work it needs to work with the market rather than try and buck it!


 

Paul Blacklock is Head of Strategy and Corporate Affairs for Calor Gas Ltd

Since 1935 Calor has supplied LPG to homes and businesses to some of the most remote parts of the country.

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