Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced a £4bn package to:
“Create, support and protect hundreds of thousands of green jobs, whilst making strides towards net zero by 2050. Our green industrial revolution will be powered by the wind turbines, propelled by the electric vehicles and advanced by the latest technologies, so we can look ahead to a more prosperous, greener future.”
The plan is wide-ranging, with a clear focus on creating jobs and addressing climate change at the same time, but many have challenged the allocation of funds needed to deliver on the challenge.
The Prime Minister’s plan outlines ten key deliverables:
- Produce enough offshore wind to power every home in the UK, quadrupling how much it produces to 40 gigawatts by 2030.
- Create five gigawatts of ‘low carbon’ hydrogen production capacity by 2030 – for industry, transport, power and homes – with the first town heated by hydrogen by 2030.
- Making homes, schools and hospitals greener, warmer and more energy efficient, including an aggressive target to install 600,000 heat pumps every year by 2028.
- Accelerate the transition to electric vehicles by phasing out sales of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by the end of the decade.
- Advancing the provisioning of nuclear power as a clean energy source, with new plant likely to be located at Sizewell and a new generation of small nuclear reactors.
- Invest in zero-emission public transport for the future.
- Support projects researching zero-emission fuels for planes and ships.
- Develop carbon capture technology with a target of removing 10 million tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2030.
- Plant 30,000 hectares of trees a year.
- Create a global centre of green innovation and finance based in the City of London.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma has stated that the announced £4bn investment is part of a wider £12bn package of public investment, but to put that sum into perspective, Germany has already committed to a €7bn investment in hydrogen alone to deliver a filling station network and create a hydrogen-powered train.
Concerted efforts to further decarbonise the grid through offshore wind, nuclear power and a further a subsidy of up to £500m to develop hydrogen production, partly by excess energy from offshore wind, will continue to impact on the way new and replacement commercial heating and hot water systems will be designed. But there remains little indication of how these investments in the green economy will directly support commercial organisations coming under pressure to address ageing, inefficient systems. The Government failed to gauge the scale of demand from domestic sites with the Green Homes Grant, and this plan has extended that support for a further year to attempt to address the over-subscription already seen, and the same can be said for businesses that are facing a short timeframe to secure non-domestic RHI support, without a clear replacement being announced. The initial propositions for replacement commercial Green Grants, being excised.
The drive to see the installation of 600,000 heat pumps a year by 2028 is again a domestic focus, although hospitals and schools have been quoted in the same breath, and no doubt additional public sector funding is going to be extended to drive this adoption. But it is worth remembering that the demands and complexity of a commercial system based around a heat pump is decidedly more complex than a domestic installation. Even now, the domestic market is struggling to identify where the large number of competent, approved installers for these hundreds of thousands of heat pumps is coming from, and that scenario will be more deeply felt in the commercial space. The lack of provisioning for large scale retraining of installers is concerning, and again a failure to show support for commercial organisations that are increasingly being mandated to demonstrate clear and real investment in sustainable and low carbon technology seems to be a critical oversight. Especially given the percentage of emissions building stock contributes each year.
Labour MP Alun Whitehead, shadow minister for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, has stated that a mixed approach encompassing different technology types such as electric and gas solutions was the way to ensure heat decarbonisation.
“We believe in speedy progress on heat decarbonisation, but we need to see a horses for courses approach. This would include heat pumps – or hybrid heat pumps where appropriate – particularly in new build and off-grid properties; district heating islands in more urban areas; and a substantial expansion of green gas (bio-methane and hydrogen) in the system.”
The Labour Party expects gas heat, specifically from boilers modified for greener fuels, to be an essential part of the decarbonisation of UK buildings. Labour’s Green Economic Recovery strategy hints at the importance of hydrogen, and in sourcing greener hydrogen produced via electrolysis, for transforming how buildings get their heat. It also highlights the need to retrain workers and create new roles around greener energy and infrastructure, as well as supporting businesses to become more sustainable.
There remains a year until the COP26 UN summit, to be hosted in Glasgow, anticipated by many to be the most critical since the Paris Agreement in 2015. That gives twelve months to further define objectives and provide a clear path with meaningful inducement for the commercial sector if the increasingly aggressive timetable is to be met. The previous carbon budgets set by the government have been achieved, but the ‘easy wins’ are now behind us; future carbon budgets are no longer on track to be achieved and it will only get more difficult. This ten-point plan, should be seen as encouraging, establishing a more defined set of targets for the nation, but greater clarity is required and much still needs to be done in terms of ensuring their practical delivery.
Talk to Adveco today about how you can leverage renewables including air source heat pumps, solar thermal and heat recovery to drive sustainability within your commercial hot water and heating systems.