Direction for Heating in the UK

By Chris Caton, Head of Commercial Product Management at Ideal Commercial Boilers.

The government is expected to publish a heat roadmap later this year setting out their exact commitments and outlining which products are the best alternatives to heat the country. In this roadmap, we hope that the government establishes the best route for the industry to follow, taking in to account the broad range of factors that must be considered.

The two main routes the industry has earmarked to achieve this target are heat pumps and/or hydrogen to replace gas. Starting with heat pumps, these already exist within the market and within our parent company Groupe Atlantic’s product range. However, with at least 20,000 heat pumps installed in the UK annually, more awareness is needed across the industry and end users. Training and qualifications are also a concern, as products and systems will be different and new areas, such as refrigerants, are involved.

Adoption of heat pumps would lead to electricity production being key to achieving a carbon neutral approach to heating in the UK. While there have been many developments over the years to ensure that more of our electricity is generated by low carbon methods, with the target relying heavily on electricity there will be the need for it to be produced entirely by these methods.

Additionally, with the price per kWh unit for electricity estimated to be three times higher than that of gas, fuel poverty is another critical consumer aspect that requires careful consideration when relying on electricity.

The other alternative that the industry is moving towards is the use of hydrogen to replace natural gas. Hydrogen ticks a lot of the boxes as a green fuel as it is low carbon and can be used to generate heat leaving behind only water vapour as a by-product. Additionally, the existing gas network could potentially be used for distribution. The key question is how hydrogen is produced. Most hydrogen today is generated by burning coal and natural gas, voiding its carbon-free benefits. There are other methods in producing hydrogen that do not require using fossil fuels such as electrolysis; however this relies on low carbon electricity production.   

We are committed to ensuring all our products provide heating solutions with the highest possible efficiency. Whether this is in the direction of heat pumps or hydrogen, the industry needs to evolve and adapt to tackle this challenge.

This first appeared in HVR Magazine, February 2020.