The Energy Transition | the importance of heat pumps, wind generation record and a call for coders

Written on 4 Sep 2020

This week we look at a report commissioned by the Mayor of London into the retrofitting of heat pumps in London, the 2040 net-zero target set by HMRC, the closure of an EDF nuclear plant, and more.

Retrofitted Heat pumps 'critical' to achieve London's net zero target by 2030

The Carbon Trust, the body which promotes sustainability within businesses, organisations and governments around the world, has published a report commissioned by the Mayor of London into the retrofitting of heat pumps in London. The report, which is intended to help guide local authorities, social housing providers and others considering a heat pump retrofit, concludes that a rapid transition from gas to low carbon heat solutions is needed to achieve the mayor's net zero by 2030 target. With 80% of London's buildings expected to remain standing in 2050, retrofitting and improving the energy efficiency of existing buildings will be critical to achieving this target.

According to the report, heat pumps should be the primary technology for decarbonising heat in existing London buildings. Its findings suggest that when combined with the decarbonisation of the grid, they have the potential to cut emissions by 60-70% compared with conventional electric heating and 55-65% when compared with A-rated gas boilers. However, the report also stresses that heat pumps are not a like-for-like replacement for gas boilers or electric heating and must be combined with good practice system design.

It also finds that despite high upfront costs, heat pumps can help to reduce fuel bills compared to conventional electric heating. However, when compared to gas, heat pumps could increase fuel bills unless they are combined with energy efficiency, best practice system design and flexible use of heat.

The report states that the following buildings should be prioritised for the retrofit as they have already demonstrated a strong lifetime financial case for transitioning to heat pumps: electrically heated buildings, building with high cooling demand and buildings which already require major renovations.

HMRC sets 2040 net zero target

HMRC has set an ambitious target of achieving net zero by 2040 and has committed to reducing non-operational business travel emissions by 50% in the short-term, going one step further than the national net zero target of 2050.

As part of its target, HMRC is currently finalising a 'Phase 1 internal road map', which it states will allow it to understand longer term opportunities, costs, savings and risks related to net-zero. A further 'Phase 2 external road map' will aim to influence and support the wider UK's transition to a net-zero economy. The announcement acknowledges how responding to the challenges posed by Covid-19 has encouraged HMRC to embrace technology, as business mileage in April 2020 was just 7% of the figure to the previous  year.

Survey shines a light on public attitudes to the transition to low carbon heating

On 1 September 2020, the government published the results of a survey into public engagement with the future transition to low carbon heating. The research found that although there was strong public support for carbon-reductions, with nine in ten people considering targets for emissions overall, and heating specifically, there was a disconnect with knowledge of heating's role in cutting emissions.

The survey found that most of the public were unaware that heating in buildings is a significant contributor to carbon emissions in the UK. There was also little awareness of the government's heating agenda, with 37% of participants saying they are unaware of the decarbonisation push. Only a minority of participants had heard of specific low-carbon heating technologies: three quarters of respondents had never heard of air source heat pumps and 88% had not heard of hydrogen boilers.

Support for a transition to low carbon heating was strongly associated with attitudes toward climate change, which had a greater effect on the acceptability of the transition scenarios than a person's demographic characteristics. Participants said the transition would be more acceptable if it involved low-level disruption, was planned on a national scale and allowed household control over the timing of the transition; for example, allowing households to choose when to switch individually rather than entire neighbourhoods transitioning on set dates.

EVBox and The Mobility House partner to provide vehicle-to-grid technologies

EVBox, an electric vehicle (EV) supplier, has partnered with EV charging company The Mobility House to implement vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technologies. Both companies have invested heavily in R&D to develop intelligent EV charging solutions and the partnership aims to accelerate the transition to emission-free mobility.

EVBox will supply the hardware for all of The Mobility House's V2G projects. This will be combined with a smart charging technology developed by The Mobility House called ChargePilot, which aims to optimise the efficiency of EVs by controlling charging processes intelligently.

Whilst details of the partnerhip's projects are awaited, an example of the partnership's work is an ongoing sustainability project on the Portuguese island of Porto Santo, where EVBox allocated bidirectional AC charging stations to allow EVs to direct energy from their batteries back to the grid.

Wind power continues to break records as Storm Francis hits UK

Storm Francis, which resulted in gusts of up to 80mph, has helped set a new wind generation record in the UK, according to data from grid operator National Grid ESO. The combination of low overnight demand for power from the grid and particularly high output from wind farms lead to a milestone for the increasingly-important renewable energy sector.

At 01:30 on Wednesday 26 August, 59.9% of total power demand, which was 23.7GW, was met by wind, superseding the previous record of 59.1% on 22 August. The remaining demand was made up of gas, at 18.8%, nuclear at 15%, biomass at 3.1%, imports at 2.5% and hydro/others at 0.7%.

EDF announces closure of nuclear plant

EDF has confirmed the closure of Hunterson B nuclear power plant in 2021. EDF previously had planned to close the nuclear power plant in 2023, following an initial extension of its planned closure in 2016.

EDF has now obtained regulatory approval to begin generating low carbon power again from one of the reactors at Hunterson B power station, following a major inspection to prove that the station can safely respond to earthquake scenarios. Once the Hunterston B nuclear power plant stops generating power, EDF will begin to defuel the station, which is the first stage of the nuclear decommissioning process.

Zeigo's call for coders

Following the April closure of an £800,000 seed funding round, power purchase agreement platform Zeigo has announced that on 9 October it will be hosting 'EcoHack®', a renewable energy hackathon in which entrants are challenged to find new digital solutions for aggregating demand and enabling small businesses to buy energy directly from renewable generators, with a view to increasing accessibility for small and medium sized businesses to the renewable energy market.

The event is open to energy experts, data scientists, engineers, coders and product developers. Winning participants will be invited to showcase their projects and solutions in a webinar organised with RE100 members, a collaborative initiative of influential businesses committed to 100% renewable electricity.

Amazon and Microsoft join climate risk analysis data initiative

It has been reported that Amazon and Microsoft, alongside international financial institutions Allianz and S&P Global, will be founding corporate members of a new initiative using open data to help investors measure and reduce their climate risk exposure.

The initiative, the LF Climate Finance Foundation (LFCF), will host a digital platform called the OS-Climate platform that will use AI-enhanced, open-source analytics to map multiple physical and economic scenarios across every geography, sector and asset class.

The OS-Climate platform, which is currently under construction, will help investors, banks and other asset holders inform their own predictive analytics, in order to spur low-carbon investment and divestment of carbon-intensive assets, whilst maximising returns in the process. The LFCF is also intended to increase engagement with corporates on climate issues, and provide governments with a tool to make effective adaptation and mitigation polices and key decisions around infrastructure.

The LFCF is being led by the Linux Foundation – long-time pioneers of open source software. As well as large corporate backing, it has won the support of significant NGOs and charitable organisations including WWF, OSI, Ceres, the Sustainability Accounting Standards and the Science-Based Targets initiative.