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Biopropane key tool to decarbonise UK off-grid heating sector, British Think-tank says

Policy Exchange, a leading British think tank, published a paper (‘Too Hot to Handle? How to decarbonise domestic heating’) containing policy recommendations to the UK government on how to decarbonise the residential heating sector. Richard Howitt and Zoe Bengherbi, the authors of the paper, believe that the goal of reducing the carbon intensity of the heating sector by 80% by 2050 can be reached more cost-effectively than how the government envisaged it in the UK Heat Strategy.

The UK Heat Strategy, published by the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change in 2013, outlines a scenario in which electric heat pumps provide more than 80% of domestic heating by 2050. The authors of the recently published paper estimate that the cost of installing electric heat pumps in more than 80% of homes, and of upgrading the power system to cater for the additional demand of electricity, would be in the region of £300 billion.


Instead, they suggest that the 2050 decarbonisation goal can be met much more cost-effectively by adopting a technologically neutral approach, which exploits the benefits of a wider range of fuels and solutions. They argue thatheat pumps and biomass can and should have an increased role, but that their growth potential is limited due to their high price, for the former, and to air quality concerns, for the latter.

They add that the uptake of more efficient natural gas and LPG heating appliances can cost-effectively bring about important carbon savings. Currently, there still are 11.5 million inefficient non-condensing boilers used in the UK. The uptake of more energy efficient solutions such as flue gas recovery, gas heat pumps, micro-CHPs and hybrid gas/electric systems can greatly reduce CO2 emissions from the heating sector at a fraction of the cost that it would take to do so by deploying a large number of electric heat pumps.

In addition, deploying green gases, such as biopropane, biogas and biomethane would greatly help, as they can significantly reduce the carbon intensity of the fuel used. The authors argue that ‘biopropane offers a cost-effective route to decarbonising homes off the gas grid’ compared to other options currently supported by UK legislation.

Read the full report here.

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