Changing the way heat is delivered to reduce emissions – whichever way is chosen – will be a major economic and practical challenge affecting families and businesses everywhere. One of the biggest challenges with heat is meeting winter peak demand which is six times higher than electricity demand.
This would require a substantial increase in electricity production with any increased capacity low carbon and only used during those winter months making it very hard to justify economically. It would also involve significant disruption to the consumer – complete replacement of boilers, radiators and other appliances as well as significant strengthening of the local grid network. KPMG recently reviewed this option and costed it at £274 to £318bn or some £12,000 to £14,000 per household in the UK.
Using decarbonised gas
This would require moving to a hydrogen based system in which methane is used to create hydrogen and the carbon dioxide is stored or converted into other chemicals for further industrial use. The advantage of this system would be that only the boiler would need to be replaced and the existing gas transportation infrastructure can be used. KPMG costed this at between £104 and £122bn or £4,500 to £5,000 per household.
It is important to go back to the core principles of security, cost and climate change as well as consumer disruption. To close down debates on ideological grounds by saying fossil fuels should stay in the ground closes down solutions that may well meet our emissions targets at a lower cost and less disruption.
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is of critical importance to meet the UK's climate targets at least cost, and requires a strategic approach to its developmentCommittee on Climate Change, 2016