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Public Sector Decarbonisation Of Hot Water & Heating

Public sector decarbonisation is a core facet of the government’s Heat & Building Strategy, which has been published to outline how the UK can achieve net zero by 2050. By decarbonising public sector buildings, the government aims to demonstrate leadership and to encourage action in other sectors to make a direct contribution to net zero.

With around 40% of UK greenhouse gas emissions being accounted for by heating, cooling, and lighting the built environment, the government has said it is ‘essential that the public sector demonstrate leadership and drive down emissions by using credible and consistent approaches to decarbonise the public sector estate.’ The aim is to reduce direct emissions from public sector buildings by 75% against a 2017 baseline by the end of carbon budget 6.

Addressing decarbonisation within both new construction or refurbishment of existing properties has now become a key deliverable throughout the public sector which will need to be shown to be leading the way in decarbonising UK buildings in the 2020s.

What is the government doing to support the public sector?  

The government’s £1 billion Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme was initially announced in 2020 to provide funding until this year. Conceived to support the public sector in finding answers to heat decarbonisation additional funding was allocated to make public buildings greener and the second phase of the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme was launched last April with an additional £75 million of funding into this year. The government has subsequently committed to investing a further £1425 million for the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme between now and 2025. This funding is intended to provide public sector organisations with grants to fund energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation measures and supports the decarbonisation of the public sector in line with the government set net zero targets.

The funding will aim to deliver energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation improvements to organisations such as schools, hospitals and public sector offices, and present an opportunity to build wider support and acceptance for transformation of how the UK heats buildings. The government has stated it is committed to the continuation and extension of the scheme to “ensure that public sector bodies have access to finance to continue decarbonising their estates.”

What does the government expect of the public sector?

The government’s aim is to introduce greater transparency into how the public sector is making practical changes to achieve decarbonisation. At a basic level, the expectation is for “all public sector organisations to be thinking about how they will achieve Net Zero and should be taking steps to start this process now.” As publicly-funded organisations, they should expect to be held accountable to the public by reporting their progress. Through the Greening Government Commitments (GGCs) a framework for reporting against targets to reduce public sector greenhouse gas emissions has already been set in place, and now all public sector organisations will be expected to show leadership by taking steps to reduce direct greenhouse gas emissions. This should include monitoring their energy use and setting targets and plans to reduce emissions over the next five years. Different targets will be appropriate for different organisations, but all public sector organisations are expected to publicly report progress against their plans and targets.

The Heat & Building Strategy specifically calls on public sector organisations to plan to reduce direct emissions from their heating systems by making buildings more efficient. This should be achieved through:

  • improving building insulation
  • switching to low-carbon heating sources when it is time for heating systems to be replaced
  • implementing smart technology
  • installing low-carbon heating in new buildings, which means retrofitting will not be needed

If reporting of public sector emissions on a consistent and coherent basis is not done on a voluntary basis, and, if insufficient progress is made on reducing emissions in the public sector, the government will consider legislation requiring all public sector organisations work toward and report against a legally binding target to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

How can Adveco help?

The Heat & Building Strategy accepts that public sector organisations will require new specialist skills and expertise to decarbonise, both through making infrastructure improvements and by better managing operational energy use. As the public sector provides all public services, including education, healthcare, emergency services and social care to name a few, these organisations encompass a large and varied requirement for hot water and heating.

Including everything from showers, washbasins and kitchens, to varied space heating demands,   applications will vary dramatically across each bespoke case, making decisions on decarbonisation all the more complex and difficult without specialist support.

Currently, the government favours air source heat pump (ASHP) based applications for the public sector as the simplest and most cost-effective answer to being greener. But many have queried the expense and relevancy of the technology outside of new build properties. The Government has said it will work with the industry to help meet the goal of reducing ASHP cost, bringing them in line with current fossil fuel options by 2030, ‘with big cost reductions of between a quarter and a half by 2025 expected as the market expands, and technology develops.’

This and the practical benefits of switching to high-efficiency heat pumps to reduce energy consumption, which includes less CO₂ production and lower long-term operational costs, make the technology an important part of the process for achieving carbon-neutral goals on schedule. The high-temperature demands of commercial hot water systems do however curtail the current generation of heat pumps as a singular response, with existing, poorly insulated buildings further reducing efficiencies. For this reason, public sector organisations faced with delivering decarbonisation goals within the proposed next five year period will need to consider more complex hybrid systems, or if on gas, look to solar thermalas a practical way to reduce energy use and decarbonise their buildings.

There are a number of available responses and new lower-carbon technologies are under consideration by the government for further support but knowing what is best for your organisation is not always straightforward. Faced with varied building stock, technology options and fluctuating user demands for hot water and heating consulting with Adveco’s expert sales and engineering staff can help you truly understand those needs and the options best suited to your bespoke situation.

Discover more about Adveco’s renewable systems for decarbonising your building hot water and heating.

Funding Retrofit for Public Buildings

The Government’s Public Sector Decarbonisation Fund is a £1billion fund being made available now for the upgrade of public buildings and social housing to make them more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly. Projects with a focus on decarbonisation of heating and hot water will undoubtedly be a priority when granting funds as, according to 2019 figures issued by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), heating, cooling, ventilating, and providing hot water and lighting for the built environment still generates 17% of greenhouse gas in the UK.

Part of a wider £3b plan to upgrade the UK’s buildings, the plan has been generally welcomed, as it is hoped to support up to 120,000 jobs across the construction sector, as well as boosting local investment through local job creation.

Designed to aid public sector organisations in England, including central government departments, agencies, local authorities, and especially schools and NHS Trusts. The plan’s intention is to improve buildings’ operational performance, reduce CO2 emissions, raise comfort levels for staff, plus reduce in building-related complaints and maintenance backlogs. This is to be achieved through the specification and installation of energy-efficient and low carbon heating measures.

However, the fund is only being made available for a single year, and since its announcement in July, has raised queries over whether government departments and local authorities have the time or resource to spend this effectively. Facility and energy managers responsible for public sector real estate should already be exploring their options for project design and delivery, not least because of the wider concerns over project timescales in the wake of Covid-19. It is, therefore, crucial to be scoping out retrofit projects as soon as possible.

At Adveco, we have almost 50 years’ experience supporting the refurbishment of public sector heating and hot water systems. While studies show that over the next two decades renewable energy sources (RES) – a mix of district heating, heat pumps, wind and solar energy – will be crucial to the energy supply in the heating market, we would lean towards more technology-open scenarios that not only predict large proportions of heat pumps but also assume the use of gaseous fuels. Just as electricity is becoming greener so too can the gaseous fuels which will contain larger shares of renewable ‘green’ hydrogen gas and other synthetic fuels by 2050. This supports the adoption of a hybrid approach that combines new and existing technologies, which we not only see as more practical but is both cost-effective and less influenced by the volatility of a RES electricity-only approach. The hybrid approach is especially valid when it comes to refurbishing old and inefficient systems, as well as extending viable systems where fresh demands outpace the original scope of the application.

From the latest high-efficiency, ultra-low emission condensing gas and water heaters to electric appliances, sustainable solar thermal and air source heat pumps, Adveco is deliberately positioned can support the introduction and integration of the latest technology. Typically, the latest generation of appliance not only is more efficient, but it can also offer a far more compact footprint, so makes refurbishment simpler, and without needing extensive building work to accommodate plant require less capital expenditure. If systems require scaling up to meet increased demands for heating and domestic hot water (DHW) then refurbishment can quickly become more complex, and if a hybrid system is employed, greater space may be required for the dual systems, as well as additional controls and pipework. Should the availability of space be an issue Adveco can design and build off-site prefabricated plant rooms that make full advantage of unused space, such as flat roofs, to expand capabilities.

If a hybrid heating system is chosen, it offers great advantages for cost-effective control, for example, 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. And, by selecting the optimal (ecological) heat generator whenever possible (via an energy management system) it can also be optimised for CO2 emissions. Should the building envelope be renovated, the required heating load decreases and the existing gas boiler can take on less of the annual heating work, and it could eventually be put out of operation.

An extra £50m will fund social housing through a demonstrator project for the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund (SHDF). This UK-wide demonstrator scheme will see grants supplied to upgrade the energy efficiency of over 2,000 of the worst-performing social homes. Again, Adveco has a long heritage designing and delivering multi-occupancy applications for heating and DHW.

To secure climate-neutral building stock by 2050, public sector facility managers desperately need help to achieve practical and cost-effective sustainability. At Adveco we can help with a full-service application design team who can provide an assessment of your properties’ demands and correctly size an application. We can help recommend the optimum appliances to deliver highly efficient systems that provide the best value in terms of capital and operational expenditure, whilst meeting the need to reduce emissions. Our commissioning service also ensures installation is carried out correctly and the system is safe to operate, which then unlocks long-term manufacturer quality warranty service.

If you haven’t started to scope out your project, or need aid, please contact us today about your project.