Low Carbon Heat

  • The UK strategy acknowledges that reducing demand through improved energy efficiency will not meet the UK’s 2050 target by itself so a range of options for decarbonising heat will be considered. Electric heat pumps, and using hydrogen and biogas in the gas grid and heat networks are all very much on the agenda.

    The Government’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) is already being reformed to focus more on long-term decarbonisation via these technologies and the UK Government will spend a sizeable £4.5bn to support innovative low-carbon heat technologies in homes and businesses between 2016 and 2021.

    A new £10m innovation programmes will also aim to develop new heating technologies in homes and commercial buildings.

    In Scotland, heat makes up more than half of the energy used (51%).

    Biomass currently provides almost all (90%) of existing renewable heat in Scotland, with biogas also used to produce heat. The Scottish Government has confirmed it will continue to engage with stakeholders to develop a Bioenergy Action Plan to provide clearer scope for the development of bioenergy in the Scottish energy system and research to improve understanding of the potential contribution which bioenergy can make to meeting Scottish energy demand (power, heat and transport fuels). It will also develop closer ties to UK Government plans to develop a Bio-economy Strategy under the Clean Growth Strategy.

    The Government is also developing a significant new approach to Local Heat & Energy Efficiency Strategies (LHEES) and district heating regulation as part of SEEP (Scottish Energy Efficiency Plan).

    Looking towards 2030
    The Scottish Government has presented two scenarios for renewable heat in its strategy, the first underpinned predominantly by electrification and the second predominantly by hydrogen.

    In the first, Heat pumps will provide the majority of heat supplied in the domestic and services sectors. The industrial sector will rely on a mix of fuels, including electricity, bioenergy and natural gas, in order to meet the specific requirements of high temperature processes, or those that require specific chemical reactions which cannot be provided solely by electricity. These sites will have found ways to use waste heat from these activities both onsite and, where relevant, offsite.

    In the second scenario, Hydrogen has replaced natural gas for most industrial and commercial heat demand, and the expansion of gas networks has reduced the amount of space heating in industrial and commercial premises supplied from electricity. Areas without access to hydrogen or low carbon gas will convert from direct heating to heat pumps, or will be supplied via heat-networks where this is feasible. Natural gas boilers will be replaced during the transition with highly efficient hydrogen boilers and fuel cells.

    The decision over which of these two paths Scotland will follow is set to be made in the early 2020s and a mixture of both is possible. Regardless, Scotland’s commitment to decarbonising heat will ensure ample opportunity for those who provide these types of technology.

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