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ADE calls on government to close ‘retrogap’ in decarbonising heat

The ADE warns there is a 'retrogap', with heat decarbonisation projects focusing on new builds rather than retrofitting.

The ADE warns there is a 'retrogap', with heat decarbonisation projects focusing on new builds rather than retrofitting.

The Association for Decentralised Energy (ADE) has called on the government to bring in zoning for heat, to help address the ‘retrogap’.

In a new paper entitled 'Zoning for Heat and Energy Efficiency', launched together with UK Power Networks (UKPN), the association has argued that a clean, strategic policy framework for heat decarbonisation is needed. Currently there is a fragmented mix of decisions, innovations and demonstrations, which is predominantly focused on newbuild developments.

Such a focus risks creating a ‘retrogap’, with the majority of buildings requiring decarbonisation already built a huge retrofitting push will be needed to bring in heat pumps and other technologies and solutions for the heat sector.

The best way to go about tackling the current fragmented system would be to bring in zoning, the ADE argues, taking a local view of opportunities and constraints, and taking the most appropriate action for each individual area.

Charlotte Owen, policy manager at the ADE, said that by enabling local decisions to take precedence, decarbonisation pathways can be specifically tailored.

“Without implementing approaches such as zoning, the UK risks falling behind on carbon budgets, as set out by the CCC, by missing opportunities for whole systems optimisation, including the use of demand side response.

“The report suggests that the UK must commit to a strategic patchwork approach to heat decarbonisation, over a single technology pathway. Otherwise, we risk preventing local areas that already have clear decarbonisation opportunities from acting.”

The report continues to argue that heat is an inherently local challenge, with differing needs in terms of infrastructure, skilled workforce and supply chains.

In order to meet net zero goals, there is no “one size fits all” option, and will require in home disruption. But through using zoning, local buy-ins, targeted solutions and more consumer engagement can ensure that the challenges or decarbonising heat are best targeted.

Along with the release of the report, UKPN is running an industry first project called Heat Street, which will look into opportunities for industry and local autoritities to collaborate based on zoning.

Ian Cameron, head of Customer Service and Innovation at UK Power Networks said it was “delighted” to work with the ADE on the zoning approach.

“By working closely and collaboratively, we can bring local authorities and key stakeholders to the discussion and enact targeted solutions to facilitate the uptake of cost efficient low carbon heating for all customers.

“In fact we’ve already embarked on this journey by launching our ‘Heat Street’ project, which will deliver learnings to demonstrate the true value of undertaking the zoning approach on our journey to net zero.”

Calls to increase decarbonisation of heat in the UK have been increasing, leading the government to include heat pumps in its £2 billion Green Home Grants scheme.

Projects to explore the best ways to decarbonise heat have been popping up, but as the ADE mentioned, most are small, localised pilot projects.

These include National Grid ESO and Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) launching a project for northern Scotland, E.On securing £3.9 million worth of funding to install heat pumps around Newcastle, and the Oxford Energy Superhub installing heat pumps in 60 homes.


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