This year’s summit, sponsored by Gemserv, Honeywell and Panasonic, heard how the low carbon head debate is shifting from pitting one technology against another, to understanding how each can best be used 

This year’s event took place on 14 October and saw a range of discussions and panel sessions looking at the technical, skills and infrastructure challenges to delivering cleaner heat – whether via heat pump, low carbon district solutions or in development hydrogen boilers.

The summit has this year been sponsored by Gemserv, Honeywell and Panasonic, who all contributed experts to the day’s discussions about where industry must go next following on from today’s publication of the Government’s Heat and Buildings Strategy.

The aim for electrification

Experts speaking during this year’s summit continued to advocate for a net zero heat approach that embraces a range of different systems and solutions to meet domestic, commercial and industrial debate.

Debate during the summit focused less on concepts such as advocating for the use of one solution over the other. Instead, panellists said it was now vital to focus on how best, if at all, to use hydrogen, heat pumps or networked systems for certain applications.

Among the other themes of this year’s summit was whether it was down to the industry or even governments to be more prescriptive around how and when these different heat solutions should be used.

Laura Bishop, chair of the Ground Source Heat Pump Association, said there was a definite role for heat pumps, hydrogen and district solutions in the move away from an existing reliance on natural gas boilers.

Ms Bishop argued that while engineers often had the technical capabilities to understand and discern between the different approaches to heat, there were significant challenges to give objective information to the public to help them understand the best choices for decarbonisation.

She noted this was particularly changing for transforming the UK housing stock due to uncertainty about both the cost and timeline for availability of hydrogen heat systems

“In my opinion as an engineer, do we really want to be producing a very energy intensive and water intensive fuel that we are then going to burn in boilers to make heat for our homes at around 21 deg C? Do we want to do that, it doesn’t seem like a very good use of fuel. It might be better to use it for vehicles or for industry.”

You can watch this debate in the player below:

What role for gas?

The summit’s headline speaker for 2021 was Mike Foster, a former MP and now the chief executive of the Energy and Utilities Alliance (EUA) trade organisation.

Mr Foster said he accepted that heat pumps would have a vital role to play for new build properties that are likely to be increasingly designed for the technology.  However, he argued that hydrogen boilers were in the process of being developed to provide lower carbon heat for the majority of the UK’s existing housing stock that is still dependent on natural gas.

In a bold pronouncement, Mr Foster said he therefore expected gas heat to remain the dominant source of heat for UK homes – albeit it a slightly reduced rate from homes currently using natural gas from heat.

“If we went form a situation where 85 per cent of homes are currently on the gas grid, where do I think this will be on the hydrogen grid?  My guess is about 70 per cent – that is just a ballpark figure.”

You can view the keynote below:

Time to simplify

Summarising some of the major themes of the summit, H&V News editor Andrew Gaved noted the calls from some speakers for more people in the industry to be involved in lobbying and talking to MPs about the technical challenges they face om delivering low carbon heat.  The calls were matched with requests for the industry to also support trade policies to help steer policy and best practice guidance linked to system design, installation and maintenance.

Mr Gaved also noted the need to simplify the transition to lower carbon heat for customers and other end users as much as possible.  He said the need for simplicity applied both to engaging consumers, as well as talking to the wider industry about the technology and means of delivering cleaner heat.

Mr Gaved said, “Let’s not try and overcomplicate things.”

“We know we have a low carbon heat journey ahead of us and it’s up to us as an industry to move it on.  And if we don’t move it on, then somebody else may seek to come in and take things in a different direction.”

You can view the session below:


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