Independent analysis from the influential CCC concludes that some major aims of the Heat and Buildings Strategy could be undermined without clearer details on how targets will be met

Analysis from the UK’s Climate Change Committee (CCC) says there are vital questions for the government to answer around delivering on the aims of its Heat and Buildings Strategy.

The CCC cited the government’s broad aim to phaseout existing natural gas boilers in the commercial sector as a notable example of some of the policy shortfalls in the document. A failure to set out clearer commitments and support to incentivise lower carbon gas boilers and heat systems up to 2035 could significantly undermine efforts to decarbonise heat and buildings up to 2050, according to the new report.

An outright ban on installing boilers designed specifically for natural gas was ruled out by the government in its heat strategy last year. Authorities instead favoured a plan to gradually expand the commercial appeal of low carbon systems such as heat pumps over the next 13 years.

An independent assessment published by the CCC this week of the heat strategy praised the government for taking some important decisions on the UK’s preferred approach to decarbonise heat.

The committee’s analysis stated that the heat strategy aimed to encourage a rapid scale up of supply chains for lower carbon technologies by relying on the market itself.

Delivery risks

The report stated that several credible policies had been set out in the Heat and Buildings Strategy to help decarbonise buildings and phase-out natural gas boiler installations by 2035. The CCC said that these policies applied for most of the UK’s building stock, although there were still some notable exceptions.

It said, “Plans are not yet comprehensive or complete and significant delivery risks remain across the strategy.”

Among the risks that were identified in the report to deliver net zero buildings was a lack of a clear policy and funding plans to deliver on a third of the targeted carbon emissions reductions by 2035.

Concerns were also raised by the CCC about efforts to improve the energy efficiency of existing buildings at a mass scale. The report stated that there was presently only a voluntary target for mortgage lenders to encourage borrowers to improve the energy efficiency of owner-occupied homes that account for 65 per cent of the housing stock in England.

The CCC added, “Further, insufficient public funding has been allocated to improve the fabric efficiency of social homes.”

There was also criticism from the CCC that the government was yet to explain how certain carbon emissions reduction targets would be achieved when compared to advice it published for the Sixth Carbon Budget.

It stated, “We would expect the strategy’s ambition for roll-out of low-carbon technologies to contribute around 18 per cent less emissions reduction than the strategy targets by 2035. The government should urgently clarify how it expects this remaining unexplained emissions reduction to be delivered and justify any more optimistic assumptions used.”

Heat pump targets

In terms of commitments to expand UK heat pump adoption, the CCC also urged the government to monitor progress and be prepared to potentially expanded funding and other incentives such as energy pricing if required to support these technologies.

Another potential major barrier to meet heat decarbonisation targets was the issue of industry skills and capabilities to deliver low carbon heat, as well as ensuring high standards of work were being met.  Stronger government action was needed to increase training programmes for the sector, according to the CCC.

The report said, “For effective enforcement, improvements are needed in Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) and Local Authorities need to be resourced well enough to conduct inspections and enforce standards. More needs to be done to coordinate the national strategy with plans of devolved and local government. There should be improved data sharing and more effective local energy planning and heat network zoning.”


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