"Decarbonisation of heat is difficult"

Heating is the United Kingdom's biggest source of carbon emissions – burning fossil fuel contributes to climate change.

It is often said that "Decarbonisation of heat is difficult". This statement is frequently heard from whose who have an interest is selling gas. It is stated so often that it has almost become a belief, and those who nod in assent seem to feel that they are taking on received wisdom.

However, it is not true.

The simple truth is that if you burn carbon fuels for heating you will release CO2. There is a well proven alternative of using heat transfer which is widely used in many other countries. Heat pumps employ heat transfer and do not use combustion. For this reason they issue no CO2 at all.

Carbon Emissions Intensity

Heat pumps use a small amount of electricity to transfer a large amount of heat from ambient air, or the ground, into buildings. If they use green electricity then no CO2 will be released at all.

If they use grid electricity then it is likely that part of the electricity they use will be generated in a power station which emits CO2. However, the "grid carbon factor" of electricity has reduced by half since 2014 and is due to reduce by half again as the grid transitions from burning coal to using wind power.


The logical choice for low carbon heating is to use heat pumps

If the logical choice for low-carbon heating is to use heat pumps, why have they only been installed in small numbers in the UK to date?

The reason for the low adoption of heat pumps is the low price of gas in the UK, and the high price of electricity.

The price of gas in the UK is lower than in any major EU country (apart from Belgium); the price of electricity is higher than in any major EU country (apart from Italy). Sweden installs 35 times more heat pumps per head of population than the UK does. It is logical for Swedes to do this as they face the highest gas price of all major EU countries (apart from Finland) and the lowest electricity price.

If the UK wants to transition towards low carbon heating, then it must either increase the tax on burning gas, or provide subsidy to encourage the installation of heat pumps.

So decarbonisation of heat is not difficult. It is just a question of whether the Government wants to put its money where its mouth is.

See Fiscal Background UK Energy Prices


See Renewable Heating          See Renewable Cooling