On 19 October 2021 the Government published the Heat and Buildings Strategy, a wide-ranging review of the measures the Government has put in place so far to decarbonise heating and buildings, and a look ahead to its ambitious commitments over the rest of the decade and into the 2030s. Broadly, low-carbon heat is expected to be achieved through a combination of heat pumps, heat networks, hydrogen, bioenergy, energy storage, smart technologies and energy efficient products, increased thermal insulation and heat distributors. Given the broad range of proposals and measures set out in the Heat and Buildings Strategy, we provide a snapshot below of some of the key points relating two areas of innovation: Hydrogen and Heat Networks.
- Hy4Heat, an innovation programme funded by BEIS, is considering the development of hydrogen heating appliances, including boilers and cookers;
- To meet Net Zero, a twin track approach of using both blue and green hydrogen during initial production will be used. However, a Hydrogen Production Strategy is expected to be released in early 2022 which will set out the Government’s thinking on hydrogen production in more detail;
- Consultations are ongoing on blending up to 20% hydrogen into the gas grid. The Government anticipates that emissions reductions of up to 7% could be achieved in doing so. An indicative assessment is expected in the autumn of 2022, with a final policy decision expected in 2023;
- The Government will begin consulting on hydrogen-ready boilers shortly, to be convertible for use with hydrogen by 2026;
- A 100% hydrogen heating neighbourhood trial will be run in Fife, Scotland by 2023, whilst a village scale trial will be run by 2025. By 2025, the Government will develop plans for a possible hydrogen heated town that could be converted before 2030; and
- The Government will make major strategic decisions on hydrogen’s role in heat by 2026. In reaching these major decisions, it anticipates that co-ordinated decisions must be made at national, regional and individual levels.
- The Climate Change Committee has projected that up to 18% of the UK’s heat supply will need to come from heat networks by 2050, up from 3%;
- The City Decarbonisation Delivery Programme, a pilot programme of six city-scale heat decarbonisation projects, is underway in Birmingham, Greater Manchester, Leeds, Nottingham, Bristol and Newcastle. The outputs of the pilot will (among other things) support work to identify heat network zones, progress the delivery of a project pipeline for key intervention areas and identify replicable measures of relevance to other towns and cities; and
- An investment of £338 million over 2022/23 to 2024/25 will be made in the Heat Network Transformation Programme, which is designed to create the market and regulatory conditions in the first half of the 2020s to support increased deployment of heat networks towards the end of the decade.
The Heat and Buildings Strategy is broad and ambitious. It demonstrates the vast range of innovative measures the Government is pursuing in its bid to decarbonise heat and buildings in the race to Net Zero.
Hydrogen is one of the key areas that the Government is exploring to service the UK’s energy needs in the years to come. Building upon the UK’s first ever Hydrogen Strategy (released earlier this year), the Heat and Buildings Strategy confirms the Government’s intention to run a hydrogen neighbourhood trial by 2023 and a large scale village trial by 2025 – the first time hydrogen as a heat source has been tested on this scale in the UK.
Achieving the aims set out in the Heat and Buildings Strategy is likely to hold a number of challenges. According to the Government, an estimated 38% of the potential emissions savings by 2030 from heating UK buildings can be achieved in homes, with another 21% achievable from businesses. However, the Climate Change Committee has suggested that behavioural change and contributions from households have so far played little to no role in emissions reductions. Therefore, a key component to the Heat and Buildings Strategy’s success will be securing buy-in from homeowners and business owners.
Financing the range of measures needed to support the Strategy will likely pose another hurdle. The Government appears to be cognisant of this and has set out a number of proposals to encourage Green Finance. Whether these proposals can be practically developed, and whether there is sufficient engagement from investors to support the measures proposed by the Government, remains to be seen.
COP26 has seen a plethora of announcements, including on the advancement of hydrogen technologies, and it is clear that both hydrogen and heat networks will be key if the UK is to meet its Net Zero target.