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The Fifth Carbon Budget & Domestic Heating

May 16, 2016

By Paul Homewood 





Buildings account for 34% of the UK’s emissions on GHG, including their share of grid electricity. Much of this is for heating and presents a huge challenge if decarbonisation targets are to be met.

This is what the Committee on Climate Change, (CCC), has to say about it:





Emissions have declined slowly in recent years, largely because of better energy efficiency, but this most of this low hanging fruit has now been picked. (The sharp fall in 2014 is mainly weather related).



And forward baseline projections, ie assuming no further policy actions, suggest emissions will start to rise again, as population increases.





Although they talk of heat networks, it is only heat pump technology which currently offers the scale necessary to hit targets. But there is a very big problem with heat pumps, and that is the cost. This is what the CCC says:





It is not clear where the average household is going to find £16k from, when their old boiler packs in, which might help explain why there are only 100,000 in the UK:




Notice that last sentence – along with support from Government to help overcome perception barriers and address the lack of carbon price signal. In other words, put a carbon tax on natural gas, so as to make heat pump technology more competitive.

We get a clue as to how much this might add to gas bills, in this graph of heating technologies for commercial buildings. Note that the CCC acknowledge that heat pumps are much more efficient in large, commercial buildings, due to economies of scale and their ability to double up for air conditioning.




The gas boiler costs rise from £44.86 to £65.42/MWh by 2030, a rise of 46%. Bear in mind that these are all at constant 2014 prices. By 2050 they have risen to £98.35.

Even then gas heating is still cheaper than ground based heat pumps.


Even the CCC recognise that heat pumps are a very expensive way to reduce CO2, but are determined to push ahead in order to stay on track for 2050:





So how to address this dilemma?





As I have often pointed out, the government has three basic options – tax, subsidise or regulate. The CCC are thinking along the same lines!




I note that they present the oft quoted, but fallacious, argument that the revenue from a carbon tax can be used to offset other taxes. While this may be true in the short run, the whole point of a carbon tax is to eliminate the use of fossil fuels, at which time there will be no revenue to “redistribute”. Instead households will be stuck with the much more expensive low carbon alternatives.

Even the generous incentives previously available under RHI have had little effect, and the state of the public finances must mitigate against any more generous ones.

So don’t rule out regulation, for instance the banning of conventional boilers. Already regulations for the building of new homes, while offering better energy efficiency, have put up the cost of buying – just one more hidden cost of the Climate Change Act.




The Fifth Carbon Budget

  1. Coeur de Lion permalink
    May 16, 2016 5:07 pm


  2. David Richardson permalink
    May 16, 2016 5:12 pm

    No Paul, we will wave a magic wand and snort powdered unicorn horn.

    I mean, what could possibly go wrong??!!

  3. A C Osborn permalink
    May 16, 2016 5:19 pm

    There does not seem to be any cost too high when it comes to Carbon reduction.
    It matters not that the money is needed for
    Hospital Staff
    School Staff
    Public housing
    Nursing homes for the Elderly
    I am sure that you can name many more, these people have lost all sight of what “government” is supposed to be about.
    As Coeur says MADNESS.

  4. Joe Public permalink
    May 16, 2016 5:57 pm

    One factor they seem to have (deliberately?) ignored is that burning gas in power station to generate electricity is done so at a thermal efficiency of ~55%.

    Instead, burning that gas in domestic condensing boilers achieves a thermal efficiency of ~85%- >91%, reducing CO2 emissions by about 55%-65%.

  5. martinbrumby permalink
    May 16, 2016 6:25 pm

    You say (mimicking the CCC) “As I have often pointed out, the government has three basic options – tax, subsidise or regulate. The CCC are thinking along the same lines!”

    In fact there is at least one further (and dissimilar) ‘way’.

    This involves the library, a glass of whisky and the old service revolver.

    The latter would emphatically be my recommendation.

  6. May 16, 2016 6:42 pm

    I looked at ground and water-source heat pumps years ago. Far too expensive, for an existing house with traditional central heating. Air-source likewise, but also too noisy.

  7. GB_Dorset permalink
    May 16, 2016 7:04 pm

    Chap I know removed his oil boiler and replaced it with ASHP. With a poorly insulated house and no upgrade from standard radiators, the unit consumes huge amounts of grid electicity to keep the temperature at about 15 deg C during the winter. The installer has now sold him solar panels to address the high electricity usage (and cost) – however these have been installed on a west facing roof – so very poor output especially during the winter. The installer has since gone bust – so no redress possible. Utter madness!

  8. Dave Ward permalink
    May 16, 2016 8:43 pm

    With the abysmally small (if any) gardens that come with new build properties in the UK these days, I doubt that GSHP’s will be of much use. We know that ASHP’s become less effective when the temperatures drop, so presumably the DECC are still working on the assumption that “Global Warming” is alive and well. I’m sure we can all see how this will pan out if a mini ice age comes knocking on our door…

  9. Derek Buxton permalink
    May 17, 2016 9:54 am

    And I thought we had voted in a conservative government not a tyrannical one. Not only are they our enemies they intend to attack everything we have fought several wars to prevent, our freedom and our, the Peoples Sovereignty. Resignations are called for, NOW!

  10. RogerJC permalink
    May 17, 2016 10:17 am

    Don’t Heat Pumps need electricity to power them? Where is this in the calculations or are they to be driven by magic. I’m sure I read someone who had installed a heat pump saying that it consumed so much electricity they should have used it to heat their home directly and not wasted money on installing the heat pump.

  11. May 17, 2016 2:35 pm

    The sad thing is that the UK government seem to shy away from demand reduction by delaying the introduction of well designed and well insulated new homes. A new building close to passivhaus standard would need about 20% of the energy used for space heating in a typical new home. Yes there are additional costs for a better built house but long term the energy reduction benefits are greater.

  12. Bitter&twisted permalink
    May 17, 2016 10:04 pm

    The Committee on Climate Change can take its “report” an shove it right up Lord Dipin’s Solar sinkhole.

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