E4tech with lead partners Element Energy conducted a study for the National Infrastructure Commission to examine the costs associated with different pathways to decarbonising heat in the UK. These pathways included electrification (heat pumps, direct electric heating), decarbonisation of gas (hydrogen networks, biomethane) and hybrid gas-electric approaches, supported by the deployment of energy efficiency, heat networks and biomass combustion. The cost analysis considered all levels of the energy system, from the building level consumer costs, through the distribution and transmission network, to the generation and raw resource costs. This study provides a clear and transparent comparison of the likely costs of decarbonising UK heat using different pathways, whilst highlighting the impact of uncertainties and practical barriers to implementation.
The work demonstrates that while the cost of heating is likely to rise in the UK, the costs are manageable and heating is expected to represent a smaller share of GDP in 2050 than today. However, the study indicates that any decarbonisation pathway will require a much-increased level of ambition relative to current policy. While there are low regrets options in the short term, the various pathways for heat decarbonisation in the UK diverge clearly from the mid-2020s and important decisions on the future of the UK’s energy and heat infrastructure will need to be taken in advance of that date. The findings suggest that while significant uncertainties remain regarding the cost of the different pathways, and that there is no clear winner at this stage, decarbonisation of the gas grid with hydrogen has the potential to be the lowest cost option, and should be taken seriously as an alternative to deep electrification.
The work will inform the NIC’s National Infrastructure Assessment expected later this year.
Published 17th May 2018, click here.
For more information about E4tech’s work in the Biomass systems sector, click here.