When the government recently announced radical new climate change commitments, it brought forward already ambitious carbon reduction targets by 15 years.
Keith Bastian, CEO of clean energy providers Outfox the Market and home heating solution experts Fischer Future Heat, believes that if we are to avoid what has been described as a “difficult and dangerous” precipice, consumers and businesses must rapidly increase efforts to cut home emissions.
Here is a statistic that should make homeowners take note: around 31% of total carbon emissions come not from industry, transportation, or agriculture – but from their homes.
It is an astonishing statistic.To achieve the government’s aim of net zero by 2050, it would require a colossal 95% reduction in domestic emissions.
And now, with bold new targets set on a 78% reduction by 2035, it is time to put home emissions at the centre of our carbon cutting efforts.
If we do not, I fear we risk a succession of targets without delivery, rollback of regulations and provisional carbon cutting. We are approaching the final critical decade in which changing consumer and business habits can halt the extremities that threaten the planet. To delay is to risk catastrophe.
That is why I broadly welcome the new targets, together with Boris Johnson’s acknowledgement that we must treat “the climate emergency as the emergency it is.”
However, while the new targets set out commendable ambitions for aviation, shipping and frequent fliers, the overall impression was one of marginal gains. And this was especially the case with the greener homes policy.
What changes have been made?
The Climate Change Committee (CCC) are focusing on a five-year period – 2033-2037 – in what is known as the ‘sixth carbon budget’. During this period, across the board, efforts to cut carbon in comparison to previous targets will be doubled.
That, of course, is welcome news. However, the so-called fourth and fifth budgets were missed – that is to say, the targets were not met. In the words of the CCC, they in fact “fell a long way short” of what was required.
This sixth budget can either be viewed as an attempt to recalibrate those failings, or the government facing both directions at once; neglecting to hit targets but promising to meet new ones.
Either way, the sense is that this time, we have little option but to meet them. The CCC declare that this budget, through time-critical necessity, is “the most comprehensive advice we have ever produced.”
The key recommendations include the switch to mostly electric cars and vans, with high-carbon options phased out. Carbon-sensitive activities are also to be limited. This includes the building of poorly insulated housing and ending our reliance on high-carbon goods.
Agriculture is tasked with maintaining current levels of food-per-head – while seeing 260,000 hectares of farmland transformed to produce energy crops.
However, it was disappointing to see little in the way of a comprehensive strategy to directly cut household emissions. While the expansion of low-energy carbon supplies is encouraged, new uses focus primarily on transport and industry.
In general terms though, I welcome these moves to expand clean energy infrastructure, and allied with local authority commitments such as district heating, they can encourage attitudinal and behavioural changes. My reservations lie with the speed of implementation and the uptake-rate of local councils.
Unless there is a hard focus from consumers and businesses to cut household emissions, targets will lapse. And, even in the best-case scenario of all other policies being successfully realised, without significantly cutting the 31% of household emissions, the reduction target for 2035 is a futile pursuit.
Along with cutting the household emissions, we must also lay focus on using 100% renewable electricity in our homes. At this time, the percentage of UK’s electricity generated from renewables is 47.1%.
With close to a majority of our electricity being generated by renewables, we as a nation have made massive improvements in reducing our reliance on fossil fuels to generate electricity. And, in only the last 5 years, the share of electricity generated by renewables has increased by 20%.
What do consumers and businesses need to do?
Energy businesses need to educate consumers on the benefits of cleaner heating choices. A survey by the Sustainable Energy Association found that only 11% of energy installers claimed that customers enquired about low carbon heating solutions.
This means a critical message is being poorly communicated. Conversely, consumers need to adopt cleaner heating choices as an essential part of an eco-friendly lifestyle.
By doing so, we can rapidly shift to a considerable reduction in household emissions. Without a coherent message from energy businesses received by a receptive consumer base, the innovation made by the energy industry will always trail government regulations.
A readily available and effective solution to this dilemma is as an air source water system. By using air as an energy source, the carbon difference between traditional heaters is vast. Their low-powered efficiency means energy drain is minimal. It is a quick and clean way of replacing a high-carbon system with a completely energy-renewable one.
Air as a source of energy is clean, abundant and free. As a renewable source, an air source heater is an economical method of water heating and is the perfect choice for environmentally conscious customers. If you can heat some of your water from air that is free, why do you need to use a 3kW immersion heater? Understandably, a large portion of the population still use combi-boilers, but there are numerous benefits of keeping your water and space heating separate.
Each room of your house also have different temperature needs, as do individual family members. Expecting one thermostat to control temperature variations for different rooms is almost impossible. Having thermostats for individual rooms means that each heater can be programmed to your requirements, which is not only comforting but also avoids overheating thereby wastage of unused energy which is paid for.
Switching to simple accessible systems such as these should be central to any government policy and industry messaging. Currently, they are not. That leaves the change primarily in the hands of the consumer. And with the clock approaching midnight on the last days of a carbon-centric economy, businesses and housing developers should be in a rush to educate, innovate and install.