By Sarah Peterson, director, energy & sustainability, at Harley Haddow
WITH energy bills soaring to record highs and the cost-of-living crisis intensifying, fuel poverty is a growing concern for many. Supplying heat at affordable prices to consumers has never been more crucial, and the Scottish Government’s recent funding announcement has the ultimate goal of supplying heat at affordable prices to consumers by accelerating the roll out of environmentally friendly heating networks.
The £300 million Heat Network Fund aims to supply low carbon heating technologies to thousands of homes, university residences and public buildings across Scotland. The fund has taken over from the Low Carbon Infrastructure Transition Programme to facilitate the decarbonisation of Scotland’s heating supply and is part of an £1.8 billion commitment Parliament has put in place to meet emission reduction targets.
Currently there are approximately 14,000 heat networks in the UK, delivering heat and hot water to 480,000 people. But the launch of the Heat Network Fund (HNF) means that Scotland’s offices, commercial and public buildings can start transitioning to heat pumps, solar and geothermal energy as a central heating source.
In addition, the facilitation of low carbon heating for social housing has taken a step forward with the Social Housing Net Zero Development Fund, aimed at small and medium-sized registered social landlords (RSLs) who require additional support to plan and deliver the roll out of zero emissions heating.
The move towards supplying heat from a central source, rather than individual heating, will be much less energy intensive. Heat pumps, which take heat from the ground or air to supply homes, are predicted to be the most common instalment. While they do use electricity, they are three times more energy efficient than gas boilers, with the ability to convert one unit of electricity into three units of heat, while gas boilers convert one unit of gas into less than one unit of heat. As well as heats pumps, the UK will also use electric resistive heating, district heating, and hydrogen boilers to generate energy.
Funding options like the HNF are desperately needed as many Scottish people do not have the finances to incur the extra costs of fitting these new technologies, particularly with rapidly rising energy and living costs.
Most Scottish households are currently dependent on fossil fuels for heat. Research published by Energy Systems Catapult (ESC) claims central heating accounts for 31% of the average UK household’s carbon footprint and to reach our carbon targets all gas and oil boilers in the UK will need to be gone by 2050.
While the fund will accelerate the roll out of new technologies, there is still more to be done in educating the public about their options and creating tailored energy plans for each area of the Scotland. Currently only 15% of UK citizens are on ‘green’ electricity tariffs and most are unaware of just how much their heating contributes to their carbon footprint. Local areas will need to upgrade based on which technology is suitable for where they live, and they need better guidance in order to do that. The government must set out clear plans for each district to allow local households to know what to prepare for. Additionally, more of a buzz and interest can be generated around the net zero transition if people who live in these areas are consulted and involved in the planning.
This year is a critical one for the construction and energy industries. The HNF does illustrate how the government is trying to give consumers, investors and developers confidence in heat networks, but to make sure it works we need to better educate UK citizens, involve them in the planning to decarbonise their areas so they support action, and find out which homes are ready for low carbon heating and notify their owners of the options.
At Harley Haddow we are passionate about providing sound and practical approaches to energy and sustainability. We have long been advocates for adapting low energy heating costs, making sure that clear systems are put in place and that people power their lives in a way that is best suited to them.