Policy report calls for national delivery to decarbonise heat in UK

A new Heat Commission convened by the CBI and University of Birmingham – chaired by Lord Karan Bilimoria – has called on the Government to develop a National Delivery Body (NDB) to lead the development and implementation of a national heat decarbonisation strategy.

Heat is the largest single source of UK carbon emissions, accounting for over one-third whilst decarbonising heat stands as one of the most significant challenges in reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. To overcome this challenge it is vital business, government, regulators and communities work together to shape the policies and delivery mechanisms that will be needed.

The Heat Commission’s report ‘Net Zero: The Road to Low-Carbon Heat’ recommends the establishment of an independent, time-limited, impartial body that will work with government on creating, coordinating and delivering an overarching NDB. Crucially, the NDB will be expected to be locally formulated and locally delivered by local authorities who will synergise their own local and energy plan with the national programme.

Chancellor of the University of Birmingham, CBI President and Heat Commission Chair Lord Karan Bilimoria, said: “A green recovery and progress towards the UK’s net-zero emission target are doomed to fail if we don’t address the urgent need to decarbonise heat in our homes and buildings.

“Recent Government announcements will undoubtedly fast-forward our transition towards net-zero. The Commission’s recommendations offer a roadmap to accelerate progress, ensure our nation stays on a path to sustainable recovery and ensures the UK remains a global leader in meeting climate commitments.

“Aside from the moral imperative, there’s also a strong economic case for protecting our planet. Large scale heat decarbonisation and energy efficiency would provide a huge jobs boost for the economy at a time when new career opportunities are needed more than ever.”

The priorities of the NDB will include decarbonising transport, industrial emissions reduction, decentralising electricity supplies, and supporting local energy plans devised by local authorities.

The proposed National Centre for the Decarbonisation of Heat (NCDH) could prove pivotal in the local delivery of the NDB’s work. Proposed by the University of Birmingham, the Manufacturing Technology Centre, Energy Systems Catapult and the Energy Research Accelerator, the West Midlands based NCDH will enable the rapid scaling up of manufacturing, skills and deployment of heat solutions, all necessary to meet carbon reduction targets.

To support the NDB, the NCDH would deliver:

·       Manufacturing acceleration – The NCDH’s Manufacturing Accelerator would work with the heat technologies manufacturing sector to support the rapid scale-up and fast deployment of heating solutions.

·       Skills academy – The NCDH Heat Skills Academy will help coordinate and train existing and new heating engineers in heat pumps, hydrogen boilers, smart system controls, digital platforms, building integration, energy efficiency, retrofit coordination and surveying, building performance assessment and monitoring.

·       Business Incubator – The NCDH’s Business Incubator will help SME innovators bring their products and services to market in time to help achieve climate targets. This will be achieved by drawing on the Centre’s system integration, skills and manufacturing expertise.

·       Building Integration and Living Lab – The NCDH Building Integration and Living Lab unit will provide the capability to test and demonstrate energy innovations, market arrangements, policy and regulations with real consumers. It will help address the challenges of retrofitting new products into existing building stock. The agile and scalable approach to building the unit lends itself to responding to the dynamic nature of heat decarbonisation and future industry needs.

·       Standards and Verification – The NCDH would work with the standards bodies and industry to help ensure the standards are defined, met and implemented. The NCDH will also provide a range of facilities which will be used to test and validate the efficiency and performance of new technologies.

Speaking about the challenge surrounding the decarbonisation of heat and the need for a NDB, Policy Commissioner, Director of the Birmingham Energy Institute and Director of the Energy Research Accelerator Professor Martin Freer said: “Delivering decarbonisation of heating is the biggest energy challenge we face in getting to net-zero. Unlike electricity, which can be changed at a systems level, it requires over 20 million households to adopt new energy efficiency measures and new ways of generating heat.

“There is not a single technology choice and the scale-up required in skills, manufacturing, distribution infrastructure and consumer engagement is huge. The level of coordination to deliver this needs to reach from the region to the nation, with appropriate resource being devolved to local level to be successful. The level of complexity and the urgency for change means the transition cannot be left to chance and a National Delivery Body supported by local innovation hubs such as the National Centre for the Decarbonisation of Heat is essential.”