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Heat: a Cinderella story

Posted by on in Heat 2014
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In my role as President of the Energy Institute, I chaired the first session of the major annual heat conference that we host in partnership with the CHPA . In my foreword to the conference programme I described heat as the Cinderella of the energy industry, not because electricity and transport are ugly sisters but because heat always gets forgotten or left behind in policy debates. The panel discussion I chaired focused on the consumer view of heat and the representative of Calor Gas made the crucial point that decisions on heat are usually made in a rush. When the central heating boiler breaks down and needs to be replaced we don't have the luxury of time to consider alternative technologies such as heat pumps, we simply want our house and family to be warm again. That isn't helped by our lack of knowledge. Research by Which? showed that most of us haven't heard of the alternative technologies anyway.

Against this background the Climate Change Minister, Greg Barker, then gave a keynote address setting out what Government was doing to stimulate the decarbonisation of heat. He described the three levels at which interventions could be targeted and where decisions are made. They are:

1. The individual household where the choices of solar thermal and heat pumps are available.
2. The local level at which district heating schemes are an option.
3. The national level where greening the gas supply by injecting biogas can be deployed.

I decided to do an unscientific straw poll of the audience; the 'heat choir' if you like, and the result was quite striking. I asked which of the three levels could have the biggest impact on the achievement of the UKs targets and where Government effort should be targeted.  5% opted for the national route;, 15% voted for the individual household but an overwhelming 80% selected the local level. The clarity of the result surprised me and certainly had an impact on the Minister.

I was left wondering whether district heating really was Cinderella's glass slipper! 

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