Encouraging a full and open analysis of the options for meeting our 2050 goals is essential. In particular, current policy development should explore the full suite of approaches that maybe necessary. ‘Building a Roadmap for Heat - 2050 scenarios and heat delivery in the UK’, is a timely call to do just this.
About the report
The report was commissioned by the CHPA, but is a completely independent piece of academic work. It is the first report of its type and promises to spark debate about the direction and focus of current policy.
Focus of the study
The report covers a range of areas relating to energy supply in 2050:
- It examines the energy system scenarios to 2050 that have contributed to current government energy policy. It highlights the consensus around a highly electrified future energy system, which we refer to as the ‘all-electric future’.
- It then considers the role of high and low-grade heat in the energy mix. It presents and discusses energy flows in both 2007 and the energy system implied by the all-electric future in 2050. This is accompanied by an investigation of the issues associated with delivering such a system. These issues are referred to as the ‘criticalities’ of the all-electric energy future.
- Finally, the report presents an ‘integrated’ scenario, which delivers improvements in conversion efficiency and a more diverse delivery of heat.
A research team of 7 scientists from Imperial College London and the University of Surrey produced the report. The group includes leading scientists in the field of energy policy such as Dr Rob Gross and Professor Matt Leach.
Below is a summary of the most salient points to be drawn from a very comprehensive report. Please refer to a full copy of the report (linked above) for more detail on these and other important findings.
- The all-electric future is low carbon but associated with continued reliance on fossil fuels and large losses of energy at the power generation stage. This future also creates challenges related to the management of power flows, demand peaks associated with electric heat and end-user adoption of insulation, heat pumps and other measures.
- Higher conversion efficiency is possible through the utilisation of power station waste heat through CHP and biomass fired CHP plant. Diversifying the mix of options used to meet heat demands has the potential to reduce peak power demands, provide a thermal ‘buffer’ to help manage the matching of electricity demand and supply and may help address some of the end-user issues.
- No route to low carbon heat is without challenges. A diverse combination of technologies can help overcome some of the criticalities, and it is likely that action on a range of options for low carbon heat will provide a more robust energy system in the long run. Action on a range of heat options in the short run also provides a resilient approach to uncertainties about the energy system of the future.