Heat opens new frontier in energy policy
15 Nov 2012
- Ed Davey highlights the importance of heat within energy debate
- Heat infrastructure must be considered alongside the development of electricity systems
- ‘Smart’ system opportunity must not be missed
Heat is no longer to be the Cinderella of the energy debate, was the message heard by delegates at Heat Conference 2012, hosted by the Energy Institute (EI) and the Combined Heat and Power Association (CHPA).
Rt. Hon Ed Davey MP, Secretary of State for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), introduced proceedings by highlighting the importance of integrating heat within wider discussions on energy policy:
"From businesses to industry, householders to communities, we all have a role to play in changing the way we generate and use heat. We need to find low carbon alternatives and our heat strategy published in March set out a pathway for moving ahead. We are working closely with industry and trade bodies like the CHPA and this event provides an excellent forum for sharing ideas and views on progress being made, such as support for heat networks in cities. I look forward to setting out our proposals next year."
The increased electrification of heat and greater use of heat networks proposed in DECC’s Heat Strategy presents a wholesale reimagining of the way heat is used in the UK and brings with it significant challenges, delegates heard. However, the effective coordination of projects and stakeholders could bring significant rewards in the form of a more efficient, flexible and reliable energy system.
Commenting on the central role of infrastructure in facilitating low carbon energy projects, CHPA Chairman, Julian Packer, said:
“Heat will continue to be the backbone of our energy supply – it’s just that the nature of the infrastructure required to deliver it will need to change. In the future we can expect to see heat, gas and power networks working in parallel to deliver the sustainable, efficient, reliable and high quality service that customers will expect in a low carbon economy.”
Several speakers noted the importance of urgently integrating heat into wider energy policy, citing the long development periods for infrastructure projects and the potential inertia of changing customer behaviour. Continuing to deliver low carbon heating in a piecemeal fashion risks locking the UK into a ‘dumb’ energy system and will limit the opportunities for balancing intermittent renewables or reducing overall demand, delegates heard.
Lord Deben told the conference:
"Of course, energy efficiency comes first but if we are to meet carbon budgets we have to have low carbon heat options. That particularly means heat pumps in buildings and biomass in industry. The transition away from gas must start now. Low-carbon options already make sense, for example, in off-gas grid properties".
The overriding message from the conference was that heat – as the most widely used form of energy – must be considered alongside electricity when developing policy. Evolving the heat system in parallel with electricity transformation is the ‘smart’ solution that more effectively matches modern heat generation with the needs of consumers. The imminent Gas Generation Strategy and next spring’s heat policy announcement provide the ideal opportunity to ingrain this thinking.
Energy Institute President, Joan MacNaughton CB HonFEI, concluded:
“The heat sector is an important player in our society for domestic, public sector, commercial and industrial customers - in other words, for about everyone in the economy. To meet the dual challenges of the economic downturn and climate change, there is an urgent need to develop an innovative and efficient supply infrastructure that will generate clean and affordable heat for all. By working closely together, industry and government can also build greater understanding of the opportunities provided by transforming the network and developing a smart and low carbon energy system in the UK”.