Last edited 09 Apr 2016

Heat Energy: The Nation’s Forgotten Crisis

On 5 June 2015, The Institution of Mechanical Engineers published Heat Energy: the Nation’s Forgotten Crisis in the context of its vision of ‘Improving the world through engineering'.

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The report suggests that the UK’s existing heat infrastructure evolved during a time of abundant supplies of affordable North Sea gas, but that it is not suitable to meet the country’s future energy security challenges, social needs or decarbonisation aspirations.

It states that, ‘The provision of heat in the UK for domestic, commercial and industrial applications is largely based on the consumption of gas and delivered through an infrastructure developed at the end of the last century. This infrastructure was designed and engineered to exploit abundant gas reserves located under the North Sea. However, these are depleting rapidly and, as the nation’s gas imports rise through our undersea pipeline connections and via our LNG receiving terminals to maintain supply, the time to focus attention on how best to transition to new energy sources for heat is long overdue.’

It proposes that this is an order of magnitude more complex that decarbonising energy and will require renewal of the nation’s heat infrastructure.

The report recommendations that the government:

  • Declare all UK building stock ‘national infrastructure’ and instigate a legislatively-driven insulation programme with incentives, such as a reduction in stamp duty, for homeowners to install insulation to national standards. For those who cannot afford to pay, a national scheme to cover the cost of work would be funded by general taxation.
  • Recognise the key role of the installer community and instigate a mandatory national installer ‘sustainable heat’ certification scheme similar to CORGI certification / Gas Safe Register for gas installers.
  • Tackle the provision of larger pieces of national heat infrastructure, as well as the interconnection and integration of heat systems with other energy networks.

Dr Tim Fox, lead author of the report said: “The UK’s housing stock is some of the most poorly insulated in the developed world, largely because of the age of much of the country's domestic dwellings and the failure of successive Governments to take the meaningful action required on energy efficiency measures. Poorly insulated homes cost the NHS an estimated £1.36 billion every year, with one estimate placing 6.5 million UK homes in fuel poverty. In addition, the amount of money and fuel that is wasted on heating poorly insulated homes is appalling, and the UK is facing a future of depleting UK gas reserves. It is clear that it is time for urgent action to improve energy efficiency in UK homes.

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