UK heat strategy ‘expensive and difficult’ says thinktank

In a new report, UK thinkthank Policy Exchange has said the government’s strategy to decarbonize the nation’s heat supply ‘looks extremely expensive and difficult to achieve in practice’.

The group said the strategy’s main focus on shifting building heating to electric heat pumps faces a number of challenges, including high up-front costs of between £8500 ($11,200) and £13,000; high running costs due to the growing gap between electricity and gas prices; low consumer awareness and acceptance; and poor performance from some existing installations.

Policy Exchange also said that switching many households to electric heat pumps would ‘create significant network and supply issues’ and would potentially require an additional 105 GW of peak generation capacity as well as an estimated £40 billion to upgrade and reinforce network infrastructure. In total, the thinktank estimated that switching the targeted 80% of households to electric heat pumps could cost around £300 billion.

‘It is clear that the consumer and network costs have not been adequately factored into the government’s thinking,’ Policy Exchange said, adding that ‘the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (DBEIS) needs to take a fresh look at its approach to decarbonizing heat’.

Among Policy Exchange’s recommendations for achieving an 80% reduction in carbon emissions from heating were improving energy efficiency, tightening boiler standards and encouraging boiler replacement, using more biogas and synthetic gases, installing district heating networks, and a more limited rollout of electric heat pumps. 

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