We are getting closer to an answer to decarbonising our energy system. Electrical generation will almost completely decarbonise, vehicles will electrify, (perhaps even aeroplanes), etc. For heat generation, however, particularly hot water and building heating, there is less consensus and the government is consulting on this to off-gas grid properties now, but the principles apply to on-gas grid properties too.
The government suggests there are three pathways to decarbonising heat generation, but the more you analyse the situation, the more the solution becomes more obvious; electrification is the only realistic way to decarbonise heat at the moment.
The three pathways suggested are:
This would involve replacing boilers, mainly with heat pumps, which use electricity to upgrade heat from the air, ground or water. Though the almost complete decarbonisation of the electrical system produces very low carbon heat, there are still challenges. Heat pumps work best at lower temperatures and therefore energy efficiency is important. The electrical network will require upgrading to meet increased demand; the public are unused to heat pumps; and the supply chain is insufficient to deliver the required retrofitting in the UK at the moment.
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