The Future of Home Heating - Time to Change

Published: 21st January 2015

With the UK’s 26 million homes responsible for 14% of its greenhouse gas emissions, and the majority of these emissions a result of burning fossil fuels, it is becoming increasingly important to look to energy efficient alternatives, such as biomass.

The Government is aware of this necessity and has put in place the Carbon Plan - a vision of Britain powered by cleaner energy.

Here we provide an overview of key parts of the Plan, particularly relating to the way we heat our homes, and the part biomass will play in the future.

Gas use currently dominates domestic sector energy consumption, making up 81% of consumption for heat purposes and 68% of overall domestic consumption.

“Almost half of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions are from the energy used to generate heat, with the vast majority of our homes still relying on fossil fuel powered gas boilers, and with much of our building stock still poorly insulated and inefficient.

There is a huge opportunity here, not only to cut greenhouse gas emissions and emissions of harmful pollutants, but also for households and businesses to save money, with the most significant and cost effective opportunities likely to come from better insulation and from replacing inefficient heating systems.

We need to ensure that the homes and buildings being built now and in the future are as energy efficient as possible, and the Government is committed to introducing ambitious energy efficiency standards for new homes and buildings.

In the short term, this means ensuring that all fossil fuel boilers are as efficient as possible, but we also need to move towards lower carbon alternatives such as air and ground source heat pumps and consider decentralised options like Combined Heat and Power, district heating, solar thermal heating and biomass boilers.

To help support this change, the Government has set in place a Renewable Heat Incentive scheme, to provide support to homes and businesses choosing to install renewable heat technologies. This scheme will act to drive down the emissions that result from heating our homes and will also play an important part in meeting the UK’s EU target to source 15% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.

While most homes in the UK rely on gas boilers for their heating and hot water, there are also around 4.8 million homes that are not connected to the gas grid and that use other options, such as heating oil or electric heaters.

While a rural farmhouse may benefit from improved loft insulation, installation of a ground source heat pump or a biomass boiler, a modern tower block might be able to reduce its emissions more cost effectively by fitting cavity wall insulation throughout and being connected to a form of network heating for all the flats in the block, even where this still relies on (more efficient) fossil fuel supply.

Or, better still, the tower block could be connected to a source of heat from a local power station or a large source of renewable heat such as a biomass boiler.

Summary of proposed actions set out in the Carbon Plan:

  • Encourage local communities to host renewable energy projects (with DECC)
  • Improve the energy efficiency of residential and commercial buildings (with DECC)
  • Deliver zero carbon new homes from 2016 and zero carbon new non domestic buildings from 2019
  • Improve the content, format and quality of Energy Performance Certificates to support the Green Deal and extend Display Energy Certificates to commercial buildings (with DECC)
  • Publish and present to Parliament a simple and concise National Planning Policy Framework covering all forms of development
  • Implement planning reform, including for major infrastructure.”

To find out more about biomass for your home click here.

To read the full Carbon Plan, click here.