Bridging the Gap to NetZero – Part 2

Hybrid Heating – the validity of gas in future hot water applications

In part one we looked at why you might adopt a hybrid approach to commercial hot water and heating as a route to achieving Net Zero in commercial properties. In this second part, we consider the continued validity of employing existing gas technology… 

There continues to be a call for a wide ban on the deployment of gas boilers in new properties, with a date of 2025 often mooted. Such a ban, though focussed currently only on domestic properties, would no doubt have repercussions for the commercial sector if/and when it comes to pass.  But it is worth noting that ‘hydrogen-ready’ appliances would be exempt from any broad ban, so gas has a role to play in that mix of technologies driving us forward to Net Zero.

According to Mission Innovation (MI), an independent clean-tech research programme, half of the global emissions reductions required to achieve climate targets by 2050 depends on technology that still currently remain at a demonstration or prototype phase. Whilst development continues into the provision of new fuels such as green hydrogen – and we could be looking at at least a decade before this is universally available –  there remain clear cases, especially in terms of reducing running costs,  for retaining existing gas technology for commercial applications. We also recognise that the retention of existing infrastructure is critical for the cost-effective deployment of long term next-generation green technology, especially considering the large scale challenge of retrofitting existing properties.

Since 2015 the wholesale price of electricity has climbed 20%, yet gas prices over the same period are down on average 15%.  The difference between the wholesale market price of electricity and its cost of production using natural gas provides us with the spark spread.

Commercial Air Source Heat Pumps (ASHP).At the time of writing, the spark spread is calculated to be 5.7.  For a heat pump to break even against a 90% efficient gas boiler, the heat pump must demonstrate a COP of 5.15. The Adveco FPI32-6 can exceed this COP, but only at warmer ambient temperatures. Far more realistic is to use seasonal COP, which at 5.15 is beyond the capability of most current generation units. When assessing the efficiency of commercial air source heat pump (ASHP) technology, we calculate the ratio between the electricity invested in order to run the ASHP and its output, this is the COP. The COP can be influenced by a number of factors including the energy needs and energy efficiency of a property, quality of hot water and heating system installation, and once operational, the energy manager’s competency in maximising the system output. We would expect high performing commercial heat pumps to show a COP that range from 2.9 to a very high 4.7 due to variance in seasonal external temperature and heating flow temperature. The average ASHP system will typically exhibit a maximum COP much lower than the necessary 5.15. It is also worth considering that the latest generation of commercial gas boilers will exhibit even greater efficiencies, for example, RP MD Boilers.Adveco’s MD boiler range can achieve a NET combustion efficiency of 106%. This means gas has a key role to play in ensuring a hybrid approach remains cost-effective.

As we progress forward, hydrogen-ready commercial gas appliances (boilers and water heaters) will leverage high efficiency, economic fuel blends with the additional advantage of considerably diminishing the carbon impact of commercial properties.

We see hydrogen playing a valuable role in meeting the needs for heating the UK’s commercial buildings but it will never be a 100% solution. This is why gas appliances in combination with heat pumps remain the best, and most cost-effective to deploy and operate method for commercial organisations to decarbonise operations and drive a low carbon economy.

Whether or not ongoing Government consultation decides to recognise the importance of ‘hybrids’ with financial support, the simple truth is that for the broad majority of commercial organisations looking to refurbish, capital investment and operational costs for heating and cooling systems are a critical decision factor. Hybrid systems offer the best option now and in the longer term as new green gas options come into play

The Hybrid Balancing Act

To truly reap the rewards of a hybrid heating system its energy management system needs to be implemented as part of the smart grid, with flexible electricity tariffs. When electricity volumes increase, prices fall. In a smart grid, when the corresponding price signal reaches the hybrid heating system it will be able to optimise the use of renewable electricity in terms of cost and availability.

In view of the extremely high volatility of renewable energy sources (RES) electricity, there will inevitably be peaks in supply above demand for electricity. In particular, this naturally occurs at high levels of wind and solar radiation. At present, an excess supply of RES electricity is either decommissioned at production peaks or sold. In extreme cases, as has been seen in the Netherlands, this could lead to negative electricity prices. To counteract this uneconomic development, it is necessary to introduce flexible electricity prices and pass them on to customers in order to stimulate production-dependent consumption. If there are high quantities of renewable energy in the grid, a heat pump will supply the building with heating and hot water. In cold phases, the heat pump covers only a part of the necessary heat output in the case of a hybrid system with the condensing gas boiler taking over to cover the remaining heat requirement and, if necessary, provides a higher system temperature.

This load management, the smart balancing of heat pump and condensing boiler operation, not only addresses the lifetime cost of operating a system it can help with the support of grid capacity (with fiscal remuneration if selling electricity generated), stabilisation of reserve capacities and potentially reduce the need for grid expansion.

The ability to provide greater efficiencies through smart metering and the use of flexible electricity tariffs to reduce operational costs for a lower total cost of ownership across the lifespan of the system is advantageous. The opportunity to impact load management across the grid however is a real game-changer for businesses being held up as a major guilty party when it comes to the continued generation of greenhouse gasses. Hybrid systems, therefore, offer a fast, cost-effective and realistic means to address ageing and environmentally unfriendly heating systems.

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Bridging The Gap To Net Zero – Part 1

Hybrid Heating – A Practical Response For The Commercial Built Environment

Adveco looks at the changing face of commercial hot water & heating, and the increasing importance being placed on the development of hybrid applications to address the real-world challenges of achieving carbon reduction levels set by the government through to 2050.

Around 40% of UK greenhouse gas emissions are accounted for by heating, cooling, ventilation, the provision of hot water and lighting the built environment, and, according to 2019 figures issued by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), business remains the third-largest emitter at 17%. In order to achieve climate-neutral building stock by 2050 commercial organisations need support from the industry to provide immediate and practical measures.

Through the expansion of wind power and photovoltaic systems, the generation of electricity from renewables and the importance of electricity in the heating market is increasing, but natural gas still dominates. As attention shifts to a mix of district heating, heat pumps, wind and solar energy, studies show that over the next two decades renewable electricity will be crucial to the energy supply in the heating market.

That said, there remain strong differences with regard to the expected share of renewable energy supply. Independent research clearly argues for a multi-dimensional approach with an energy mix consisting of renewable energy and gaseous fuels with a high share of renewable energies. Studies that are more “almost all-electric” argue in favour of almost complete dominance of the heat pump, while the technology-open scenarios also predict large proportions of heat pumps, but also assume the use of gaseous fuels.

Just as electricity is becoming greener, via an ever-increasing share of renewable energy, so too over time will the gaseous fuels such as ‘green’ hydrogen gas and synthetics.

Why Take The Hybrid Route?

So, let’s consider the advantages of the hybrid approach. This, at the most basic for heating systems, consist of two heat generators, of which at least one is operated with renewable energies and one with fossil fuel. Often, a hybrid heat pump system consists of a heat pump (air source) designed for a system part load (baseload) and a gas condensing boiler for peak load, for example during the cold, dark winter months. In a fully hybrid heat pump system, both heat generators can cover the entire heating load, where the energy sources can be freely selected according to definable criteria including efficiency, emissions and price.

Commercial Air Source Heat Pumps (ASHP).

Compared to a conventional combustion heating system though, there will be issues of logistics and space requirements, but as hybrid systems are particularly relevant to buildings in which there is already a gas connection this is generally less of a concern. That said, a hybrid system will require two heat generators and two energy connections, one of which is an environmental heat source. This leads to higher complexity of the plant, requiring more effort and expertise from the system designer, supplier and installer. This all leads to higher CAPEX cost. It is typically estimated that the purchase and installation of a hybrid heating system compared to a pure condensing heating system is going to drive initial costs up by approximately 50 to 60%. So, what are the advantages that outweigh these initial costs?

For older commercial properties where a new heating system is required, but wider renovation is either not feasible or required, a hybrid system can control and avoid issues of project congestion when refurbishing, as the heat pump is used to supplement the pre-existing fossil-based heating system.  This helps to save costs as existing boilers can continue to be operated on the currently installed heat distribution, heat transfer and flue systems while the heat pump can benefit from an advantageous coefficient of performance (COP) in the right conditions and setpoints.

A hybrid heat pump/gas boiler system is able to reduce the maximum power consumption of a system by smartly balancing the heat generators for greater efficiencies and lower operational costs whilst guaranteeing high system temperatures to ensure the comfort of those still living or working in the building during refurbishment work. If the hybrid system is also equipped with a buffer tank and domestic hot water (DHW) tank the heat pump can achieve a high proportion of cover for space heating and DHW heating increasing the profitability of the system.

A hybrid heating system cannot only be controlled cost-effectively but it can also be optimised for CO emissions by selecting the optimal (ecological) heat generator whenever possible via an energy management system that incorporates smart metering.

Hybrid systems for commercial properties will typically be planned according to individual project requirements. In cold phases, the heat pump in the hybrid system can only take over part of the heating load due to the design. If necessary, the condensing boiler, especially on cold, dark days with high demand, but a limited supply of renewable energy, completely covers the heating load.

This versatility enables the energy manager to react to price fluctuations, especially in the power grid and possibly also in the gas grid.

Should the building envelope subsequently be renovated, the required heating load decreases and the existing gas boiler can take on less of the annual heating work or eventually could be put out of operation.

In part 2 we consider the continuity of using gas for future hot water applications

A Global Roadmap to Net Zero

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has published a global roadmap with more than 400 milestones, spanning all sectors and technologies – for what needs to happen, and when, to transform the global economy from one dominated by fossil fuels into one powered predominantly by renewable energy, such as solar and wind, to realistically achieve Net Zero by 2050.

Despite the current gap between rhetoric and reality on emissions, the IEA roadmap shows that; “there are still pathways to reach net zero by 2050. The one on which we focus is – in our analysis – the most technically feasible, cost‐effective and socially acceptable. Even so, that pathway remains narrow and extremely challenging, requiring all stakeholders – governments, businesses, investors and citizens – to take action this year and every year after so that the goal does not slip out of reach.”

To keep the world safe, scientists say that global heating has to be limited to 1.5C by the end of this century. To keep close to that mark, emissions of warming gases need to drop by half by 2030, and essentially hit zero in 2050.

The IEA report, Net-Zero by 2050 A Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector, envisions a global economy that is twice the size of today’s, with an additional two billion people but with an 8% drop in energy demand. This pathway, the report states, requires international co‐operation and “vast amounts of investment, innovation, policy design and implementation, technology deployment, and infrastructure building.”

The plan sets to achieve this with no carbon offsets and a low reliance on technologies to remove carbon from the air. Achieving the rapid reduction in CO2 emissions over the next 30 years requires a broad range of policy approaches and technologies. The key pillars of decarbonisation of the global energy system are energy efficiency, behavioural changes, electrification, renewables, hydrogen and hydrogen‐based fuels, bioenergy and carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS).

Fig 1 Solar, wind and energy efficiency deliver around half of emissions reductions to 2030, while electrification, CCUS and hydrogen ramp up thereafter

The direct use of low‐emissions electricity in place of fossil fuels, with a complete removal of new supplies of coal, oil or gas, is one of the most important drivers of emissions reductions outlined in the report, accounting for around 20% of the total reduction achieved by 2050. Global electricity demand more than doubles between 2020 and 2050, with the largest absolute rise in electricity use in end‐use sectors taking place in industry, which registers an increase of more than 11 000 TWh between 2020 and 2050. Much of this is due to the increasing use of electricity for low‐ and medium‐temperature heat.

As part of this electrification process, and with gas or oil heating currently a major source of carbon emissions in many countries, the IEA is calling for no new fossil fuel boilers to be sold, except where they are compatible with hydrogen. This is not the first time this has been mooted in the drive towards Net Zero, one that has already been questioned by the building industry in terms of bringing enough hydrogen ready product to market, and more critically securing trained installers to fit new builds. What the report does not clarify, in the drive to emphasise efficient buildings, is how the building sector can realistically address retrofitting old existing infrastructure. For the commercial sector, this is a major issue and one that Adveco is taking the lead on, developing hybrid applications to bridge the old to the new, and developing brand new technologies that drive sustainability of larger-scale hot water and heating systems. With a strong history of developing bespoke applications and a technology-agnostic approach, Adveco is well-positioned to support commercial organisations struggling to adapt to new demands for sustainability within new and existing buildings.

To meet the need for greener energy systems where all of the world’s electricity would be emissions-free by 2040, and to expand electricity provision to the 785 million people in the world who have no access at present, requires an enormous undertaking, quadrupling the current levels of wind and solar installations. The scale of the change proposed is unprecedented, Fatih Birol, the IEA Executive Director said, “The scale and speed of the efforts demanded by this critical and formidable goal – our best chance of tackling climate change and limiting global warming to 1.5C – make this perhaps the greatest challenge humankind has ever faced.”

The report has already faced some criticism due to the reliance on CCUS which remains an unproven technology, and bioenergy which would require a 60% increase in production. To meet this demand would require a 25% increase in plantations of energy crops and forestry to make liquid fuel or be burnt to generate electricity.

The IEA does, however, see a strong opportunity for hydrogen and hydrogen-based fuels. Demand increases almost sixfold to 530 Mt in 2050, of which half is used in heavy industry (mainly steel and chemicals production) and in the transport sector; 30% is converted into other hydrogen‐based fuels, mainly ammonia for shipping and electricity generation, synthetic kerosene for aviation and synthetic methane blended into gas networks; and 17% is used in gas‐fired power plants to balance increasing electricity generation from solar PV and wind and to provide seasonal storage. Overall, hydrogen‐based fuels account for 13% of global final energy demand in 2050, with hydrogen production almost entirely based on low‐carbon technologies: water electrolysis accounts for more than 60% of global production, and natural gas in combination with CCUS for almost 40%

Hydrogen production jumps sixfold by 2050, driven by water electrolysis and natural gas with CCUS, to meet rising demand in shipping, road transport and heavy industry

With the energy sector, according to the IEA, being responsible for around 75% of the emissions of greenhouse gases that are driving up global temperatures, limiting global heating to 1.5C by the end of this century, means emissions of warming gases need to drop by half by 2030 if they are to hit zero by 2050. The IEA warns that the greatest threat to limiting global heating is weak international co-operation, which after the mid-2030s would see the pace of emissions reductions worldwide slow markedly, delaying a global transition to net-zero by decades. This throws additional weight on those nations attending COP26, in Glasgow this November, to form major agreements on policy and co-operation.

UK Needs to Cut Emissions by 78% by 2035 to Meet Net-zero

Under the original Climate Change Act, the UK pledged to cut net emissions by 80% by 2050. Now, it will need to deliver a 78% reduction by 2035 if it is to meet its long-term net-zero commitment. That is according to the Climate Change Committee (CCC), which has published its Sixth Carbon Budget for the period between 2033 and 2037.

The CCC described the budget as the toughest yet with chief executive Chris Stark saying that the UK will need to decarbonise at a faster pace in the next 30 years if the net-zero target is to be met. Stark explained that the Committee has deliberately opted to ‘front-load’ decarbonisation – more will need to happen in the 2020s and the earlier half of the Sixth Carbon Budget period than in the latter half and the 2040s. Heat, and the broader decarbonisation of buildings, is one of the major priorities identified by the CCC which has based its calculations on a scenario in which 40% of the emissions reductions needed will be delivered using pure-technology solutions.

The new recommendations will see heat supply drastically transformed from its current reliance on natural gas if the country is to decarbonise all aspects of the UK’s infrastructure and economy. The budget has set a mandate for fossil fuel boiler installations to end across the UK entirely from 2033, with fossil fuels phased-out from heating in public buildings by 2025 and in commercial buildings by the following year. It added that these stricter targets to phase out higher-carbon technologies in public buildings would also support a government aim of realising a 50% reduction in emissions by 2032. The 2033 date has been set to take account of the typical 15-year turnover of boiler stock, while also allowing for the scaling-up of supply chains to deploy heat pumps at a mass scale.

The recommendations aim for 37 per cent of public and commercial heat demand to be met by lower-carbon sources as of 2030.  According to the CCC, heat pumps should cater for 65% of the predicted need, 32% of heat should be provided by district heating systems, whether low or high-temperature supply, with a further 3% from biomass by the end of the current decade. By 2050, CCC estimates that 52% of heat demand should be met by heat pumps, 42% from district heat, with hydrogen boilers covering the remaining 5% of national demand.

One caveat, however, was that since the dates operate alongside the deployment of low-carbon heat networks and planned regional rollouts of hydrogen conversion of the gas grid, the phase-out outlined may not apply in any areas designated for these alternatives. This makes a nod to a net-zero that derives balance between pure hydrogen systems and electrification, both delivering decarbonisation of heating. It also highlights the danger of supporting one technology and ignoring another when the pace of development is so much steeper and will continue to be so as we move towards 2050. To this end, the CCC is using what it describes as a ‘balanced pathway’ scenario upon which to base its calculations and that its delivery will require ‘systems change’ and a ‘whole economy approach’ to decisively meet the UK’s legal target of fully eliminating and offsetting carbon emissions by 2050.  Under this ‘decisive’ decarbonisation plan, the CCC has warned that a sizable majority of change must be made within 15 years.

Adveco.Talk to Adveco about how we can help you create more sustainable heating and hot water applications for your buildings.

Making ASHP Work For Commercial Applications – Part 2.

Making ASHP Work For Commercial Applications – Part 2

The Hybrid Approach

In part one, we considered the challenges and limitations of an Air Source Heat Pump (ASHP) only system, with particular focus on the problems commercial organisations faced when retrofitting existing properties with new heating and hot water applications. In this concluding part, we look at the advantages of adopting a hybrid system approach based on ASHP technology…

A hybrid approach where an ASHP is deployed in a packaged combination with a gas boiler and control system presents an attractive alternative, retaining the element of gas boiler technology that customers are comfortable with. Plus, it also offers better compatibility with existing heating distribution systems and thermal demands of higher heat loss buildings meaning less adaptation is required. There are also technical advantages, such as the ability to optimise heat pump efficiency and switching to the gas boiler at times of network peak.

The facility of two heat sources to meet the demands for space heating and/or hot water is especially relevant for the commercial sector where bespoke system design is often required to meet the particular needs of a project, such as applications with a high heat loss. In this case, the gas boiler can be operated to meet peak demands on the coldest days, allowing the heat pump to be reduced in size compared to the capacity of a pure electric heat pump system.

Installing a heat pump alongside an existing gas boiler, together with a control system also makes sense in retrofit installations, especially, in applications where a relatively new boiler has been installed, which should be highly efficient, and which can be retained for peak heating loads. The key challenge technically is to ensure that the control system for the ASHP and existing boiler operate together efficiently.

In such cases, given that the ASHP does not replace an existing heating system, the driver for installing the system is largely to reduce running costs and make quick gains towards improving environmental performance.

Hybrid systems based around an ASHP are likely to require some system refurbishment in many retrofit installations in order to ensure that a substantial proportion of the annual demand is met by the heat pump (though this is likely to be lower than a pure electric system). Even so, when including the cost of a gas boiler replacement, the cost of refurbishing heating systems for the installation of a hybrid system should be lower than in the case of a single heat pump system. This is due to the reduced heat pump capacity requirement since the boiler can provide higher flow temperatures to meet peak heat demands. When comparing the cost of a heating system refurbishment opting to install a hybrid system versus a ‘pure’ ASHP system a reduction in comparative costs of as much as 50% could be achieved (Source: Frontier Economics).

Once installed, levels of carbon savings are generally slightly higher when allowing for hybrid solutions – suggesting that up until 2030 hybrid solutions could be consistent with meeting carbon targets. Although the average cost-effectiveness of carbon abatement is somewhat lower than in the scenarios which exclude hybrids. These savings are estimated based on comparison with a standalone ASHP, assuming that a hybrid system will use a smaller heat pump with a capacity reduced by as much as one third. For a hybrid ASHP system, expectations will be for the heat pump to meet as much as 75% of the annual heat load, the remainder being met by a gas boiler. This delivers similar operating costs and comparable CO and CO₂ savings at current grid carbon intensity (the reduced heat pump coverage of the overall thermal demand can be compensated by the ability to run the heat pump at closer to optimum efficiency).

Whilst the long-term use of hybrid systems may be perceived as not fully consistent with meeting carbon targets and they can equally be limited by space requirements and noise issues that also affect standalone ASHP installation, there remains a strong argument for their use across the commercial sector.

In the long term, hybrid systems should fall behind pure electric systems in terms of carbon benefits as the grid decarbonises and may become less cost-effective if volumes of gas supplied for the heating drop. But looking out to 2050, innovations in the provision of hydrogen and green gas, using extant infrastructure which currently supports 85% of UK heating, means hybrid systems may prove to be a defining low carbon option. One that provides the means to support the very particular, practical needs of the commercial market with versatile, cost-effective systems, all without sacrificing the drive to lower emissions as part of the process of achieving net-zero.

Adveco.Read about Adveco’s compact commercial FPi ASHP range and prefabricated packaged systems for a hybrid approach.

For further information contact Adveco.

Now Is The Time To Agree A Low Carbon Obligation.

Now is the Time to Agree a Low Carbon Obligation

Hydrogen presents the UK with a clear opportunity to become one of the first nations to integrate this clean energy on a national scale, according to a recent All Part Parliamentary Group (APPG) report on the application of the gas. Produced primarily by electrolysis of water or by reforming methane, where the carbon dioxide generated can be captured and stored, hydrogen can be combusted in a way that produces no greenhouse gas emissions.

Jacob Young, MP, commented,

“The UK Government was the first world leader to boldly establish a 2050 net-zero carbon target, but our ambitions will be unachievable without embracing hydrogen as an alternative fuel. The longer we wait to develop our hydrogen strategy, the more difficult achieving net-zero becomes. We believe that hydrogen is the solution to decarbonisation.”

Amongst a list of recommendations, the report sets out several key requirements to establish a working timeline for the delivering of a hydrogen infrastructure that can enable the UK to achieve net-zero by 2050.

The first is to invest in developing the first Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) network by 2025, in line with the 2019 Conservative Party manifesto commitment. The Government made new commitments to that process last month with a new £350 million package targeting carbon emissions from the construction, transport and heavy industry sectors, which in part will support CCS development.

Critically, the report also recommends establishing interim targets for low-carbon hydrogen production to be set by 2030. Alongside this would be the introduction of a Low Carbon Obligation which would be critical in the enabling investment in low carbon forms of heating such as hydrogen, as well as heat pumps and hybrid systems.

In terms of hydrogen research and development, the UK has been taking the lead with trial projects like HyDeploy and Hy4Heat, which bodes well for a smoother transfer to low-carbon hydrogen-based heating, essential for a dependable and affordable future energy mix. Despite this, the Government has yet to clarify its stance for the commercial sector. A notable failure to show support for hybrid systems is particularly vexing, as these systems must be recognised as a bridging mechanism for commercial organisations awaiting the roll-out of hydrogen. This is why the introduction of a Low Carbon Obligation, as proposed by the report, is so important.

Truly “Green Hydrogen” is produced by electrolysis using renewable electricity, but currently, neither solar nor wind power have the existing infrastructure for large-scale green hydrogen production to work. As a result, “Blue Hydrogen”, which takes carbon dioxide from the hydrogen making process and uses Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) to contain this, while not fully green, is a “leaner” version that is the first step in a new direction for national gas deployment for heating purposes. Using CCS technology should still allow for the capture up to 95% of the carbon dioxide emissions produced from the use of fossil fuels in energy generation, preventing it from entering the atmosphere and damaging the environment.

The report recognises the important role that Blue Hydrogen projects play in supporting the reduction of carbon emissions in the immediate future.  The hope is that if the Government shows active support for, and promotes Blue Hydrogen as a valid steppingstone, it will also have to recognise and support not only heat pumps, but also hybrid solutions. Hybrid systems represent a necessary and realistic route for the commercial sector which otherwise faces a continued lack of clarity that will inherently lead to considerable additional refurbishment costs as they shift find themselves coerced into shifting from one preferred ‘green’ technology to the next, and possibly back again, over the coming 15 to 20 years.

The commercial built environment remains a considerable factor in the generation of carbon emissions in the UK. Improved clarity and guidance from the Government has to come further up the agenda, and sooner rather than later, if organisations are to embrace and actively support development within new and existing buildings that will contribute to attaining net-zero by 2050.

UK Government Makes New £350m Commitment to Decarbonisation.

UK Government Makes New £350m Commitment to Decarbonisation

  • Support targets construction, transport and heavy industry sectors
  • Includes dedicated funding for green hydrogen.

The Government has announced a £350 million package targeting carbon emissions from the construction, transport and heavy industry sectors in an effort to reach net-zero by 2050.

“Climate change is among the greatest challenges of our age. To tackle it we need to unleash innovation in businesses across the country,”

said Alok Sharma, business and energy secretary.

“This funding will reduce emissions, create green-collar jobs and fuel a strong, clean economic recovery – all essential to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.”

The projects set to receive funding will work on developing new technologies that could help companies switch to more energy-efficient means of production, use data more effectively to tackle the impacts of climate change and help support the creation of new green jobs by driving innovation and growth in UK industries.

The investment comes after the Committee on Climate Changes 2020 Progress Report argued that for industry, electricity and hydrogen production and CCS should all be considered as pathways for decarbonisation, and a funding mechanism established for the chosen technologies before the end of 2020.

This latest investment doubles down on a commitment made last July of £170 million for deploying CCS and hydrogen networks within industrial clusters.

Of this latest round of funding, £139 million is to be dedicated to the cutting of emissions by supporting the transition from natural gas to clean hydrogen power and scaling up carbon capture and storage (CCS). The latter to place 90% of emissions currently being released into the air by heavy industry into permanent underground storage.

£26 million is to be directed at developing new, advanced building techniques – such as offsite construction – to reduce both construction costs and carbon emissions, with a further £10 million to support projects focused on productivity and building quality.

The announcement provides a much-needed indication of intent for the commercial sector which has, until now, complained of a lack of direction and support from the Government following its well-publicised aim to achieve net-zero by 2050. It is understandable that the government would target heavy industry and transport first as these are by far the guiltiest parties when it comes to carbon emissions, but increasingly, the finger has also pointed at the built environment. So the inclusion of dedicated support for construction is welcome.  However, the focus on ‘R&D’ projects and so by default, new builds, means many commercial organisations caught out by difficult or limiting refurbishment are still left waiting for clear advice and more crucially, for funding.

The real glimmer of hope in the announcement lies in the clear assertion that hydrogen production forms part of the Government’s plans for national carbon reduction. Familiarity and the most comprehensive pre-existing national infrastructure makes a transition from natural gas to a hydrogen mix an obvious choice for driving forward to net-zero. Critically, for many commercial organisations struggling to equate the costs of transitioning to more sustainable energy sources hydrogen offers a simple, and more cost-effective answer, so long as its provision is made more available in the mid-term. In the short-term, this should back a decision to move to hybrid systems that are able to blend legacy natural gas with direct-electric and renewable energy. What the government needs to do now is recognise the value of hybrid systems as a stepping stone to wholly hydrogen and renewable-based systems, thereby providing a safety net for commercial facility and energy managers who may fear expensive commitments to what could be the wrong energy technology in the long term.

Green Heat Roadmap highlights the challenges of achieving Net Zero by 2050

A new report launched by Minister for Climate Change Lord Duncan on 15 October 2019, calls for an urgent Green Heat Roadmap by 2020 to scale low carbon heating technologies.

The 80% 2050 carbon emission reduction target relative to 1990 already required over 20,000 households to switch to low-carbon heating every week between 2025 and 2050. The zero-carbon target requires even more rapid decarbonisation yet the most successful policy constellations to date have only succeeded in encouraging 2,000 dwellings to switch to low-carbon heating every week.

Despite the focus on households, large-scale rollout also requires the development of supply chains so at-scale demonstrations go hand-in-hand with protection. This activity will also impact on the role the commercial sector will have to play, particularly with community-led and local approaches taking precedent, increasing the visibility of successful approaches.

Commenting on the report, EUA chief executive Mike Foster said; “EUA believes that the only sensible, cost effective and deliverable solution to decarbonising the hard to tackle heat sector is by using green gases such as hydrogen. The technology is being tested that can deliver the carbon reductions needed, while keeping people warm.

“It is the optimum solution. The energy trilemma, a phrase that rightly suggests the difficulty in balancing the competing demands of affordability, reliability, and sustainability, should be set against the UK’s particular needs, and utilising the existing gas network, but with low carbon gas, does this.”

Read the report here.

Is Hydrogen The Long Term Answer To Decarbonising Commercial Buildings?

The UK Government’s announced drive towards Net-Zero is to be lauded, but in truth, there is no utopian response that completely satisfies all criteria. So, the search continues for the most cost-effective and robust path of transformation for the commercial sector. What is clear is that technologies that can leverage existing infrastructure and supply chains are highly advantageous when it comes to commercial buildings contributing to long-term decarbonisation.

This was why in late 2018 the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) proposed that hydrogen, when combined with greater energy efficiency, cheap low-carbon power generation and new ‘hybrid’ heat pump systems would be a credible option to help decarbonise the UK energy system.

Previous assessment had always questioned the practicality and expensive of roll out at scale, despite recognising the potential of hydrogen as a zero-carbon energy source. The CCC’s new findings, however, indicated that hydrogen could replace natural gas in parts of the energy system, where electrification is not feasible or is prohibitively expensive, for example in providing heat on colder winter days, industrial heat processes and back-up power generation.

This has spurred on HyDeploy, the largest gas innovation project ever funded by Ofgem. The project, which is set to be completed by 2023 is a launch pad for the hydrogen blending market and the UK’s first to demonstrate hydrogen injection into a live gas network, with the aim to achieve up to 20% volume blend for domestic gas use. The overarching aim of the project is to provide the safety case for hydrogen blending and facilitate the clearance of regulatory barriers necessary to kick start the hydrogen blending market.

The project is a critically important stepping stone in establishing Hydrogen as a credible option for the UK’s energy transition. The reality is that a shift to hydrogen requires a number of obstacles to be overcome and much of that is to do with education. Research commissioned by the CCC into the general awareness of hydrogen as a heating technology showed a broad lack of familiarity with the new technology and how it works with the current heating expectations – efficiency, speed of deployment and physical form factors. There were also inherent negative perceptions relating to the burden of installation costs of the new technology. The challenge to the heating industry as a whole is to better educate customers in order to accept alternative technologies moving forward and to clearly establish the benefits of switching heating technologies.

What is clear, is that hydrogen is not going to be the holy grail of zero carbon heating for commercial projects. The simple truth is that it would be impractical to switch the gas grid to 100% hydrogen for zero carbon heat, despite the existence of the extensive natural gas grid in the UK.

Producing bulk hydrogen from renewable electricity is also still expensive, and any produced by ‘surplus’ renewable electricity is not expected to meet the scale of demand. The production of low carbon hydrogen at scale will rely on using imported natural gas and deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS) to offer a cost-effective route to produce lower volumes of hydrogen. Even when using CCS, it is important to realise hydrogen from fossil fuels will not be zero-carbon.

But, in terms of cost-effectively reducing emissions from energy use to a very low level by 2050, producing hydrogen via a low carbon route and storing it at scale makes it a potentially valuable complement to electrification.

Looking forward, the priority for the 2020s is to educate the commercial market by demonstrating hydrogen’s value. This begins by commencing hydrogen production at scale as part of a CCS cluster. It is proposed that blending at small proportions into the natural gas supply and deployment within industry would not initially require major infrastructure changes. Without doubt, there will be new policies put in place by the government to drive this adoption as greater clarity is gained regarding hydrogen’s long-term role in the energy system.

In the mid-term to long-term, hydrogen is expected to play a valuable role in meeting the needs for heating the UK’s commercial buildings. This will be realised primarily by deployment in combination with heat pumps as part of ‘hybrid heat pump’ systems.

Heat pumps, powered by increasingly low carbon electricity, offer the potential to provide heat efficiently for most of the time, with hydrogen boilers contributing during periods of peak electricity demand, which have cost implications for a business, and when temperature plunge in winter months. The expectation is for the combined deployment of hydrogen and heat pumps to effectively displace fossil fuel only use in buildings in the long term to achieve very low emission energy systems that will make an important contribution to decarbonisation.

As a result, facility and energy managers looking to establish a road map to net zero carbon are advised to look at how they can integrate heat pumps with their existing gas infrastructure into a hybrid approach that will not only be more efficient, lower cost and lower carbon, but ultimately be hydrogen ready.

With close to 50 years of experience in advising the commercial sector on hot water, heating and low carbon renewable power systems, Adveco is perfectly placed to consult on short, mid and long term options for your commercial projects, whether new build or refurbishment.