This time last year, I wrote about what I wanted to see happen in 2021 to drive forward the UK’s net zero ambition by decarbonising as many homes as possible. It promised to be a big year of governmental policies and strategies to help accelerate the low-carbon transition, including the publication of the long-awaited Heat and Buildings Strategy and the overarching Net Zero Strategy.
These, and many others, were published – albeit later than planned – ahead of the COP26 conference in November. However, the Heat and Buildings Strategy in particular outlined somewhat modest plans on how it plans to decarbonise the UK’s housing stock – in reality, the new funding announced will only cover around 30,000 air source heat pumps (ASHPs) a year over three years. As there are 1.5 million gas boilers to replace each year, it is clear that this policy announcement only scratches the surface. We still have a long way to go to deliver net zero in our homes.
So, what do we want to see this year to turn the ambition into real action?
Choice is crucial to decarbonisation
Firstly, I’ll revisit one of my key wishes in 2021 and upgrade it for 2022. In 2021, I called for a broader approach to grants and incentives for low-carbon heating technologies. This remains the case. The simple fact is, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to decarbonising the UK’s homes.
For example, heat pumps aren’t realistic for around 40% of properties, which represents 8 to 12 million homes. So, while a recent government-sponsored report concluded that ASHPs were suitable for all properties, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are the best choice, particularly when it comes to heating properties such as flats or those with low thermal efficiency.
Therefore, it is important that all electric heating solutions – including our CCIR technology – are considered for a low-carbon transition that is accessible for all.
A clear retrofit strategy is needed
For new builds, there is a clear deadline that properties should be ‘zero carbon ready’ by 2025 under the Future Homes Standard, and in December 2021, the government announced changes to its Building Regulations, stating that carbon emissions from new build homes must be around 30% lower than current standards. While some commentators have argued that they don’t go far enough, these new regulations will come into effect from June 2022, with the idea of ensuring that all future homes will not have to be retrofitted to be net zero ready.
So where does this leave existing properties? As outlined, the funding allocated in the Heat and Buildings Strategy to upgrade the UK’s homes will hardly make a difference to the huge retrofitting task that lies ahead.
This was highlighted in the UK Green Building Council’s ‘Net Zero Whole Life Carbon Roadmap’, which recommended that the government publishes a National Retrofit Strategy this year to ensure these targets can be met – something that we agree is desperately needed.
Continuing to deliver exciting CCIR projects
2021 saw Ambion continue its success in delivering low-cost, low-carbon and highly-efficient heating projects for some of the UK’s most innovative projects, including working with leading modular homes developer First Start Homes, several social housing providers and many rural estates.
This year will see us continue this momentum, with several exciting projects in the pipeline and new products in development. We’ll also be attending several events, so please follow our social channels on LinkedIn and Twitter to be kept up to date on the latest Ambion news.
So, to sum up what we want to see in 2022:
An acknowledgment that a choice of heating solutions will be needed to accelerate the low-carbon transition, and therefore any future grants or subsidies should reflect this
A focus on how to tackle the huge retrofitting task that is needed to decarbonise the UK’s diverse housing stock
More success for Ambion and CCIR!