It’s the Halloween special, and we’re thinking about the scary future as the country commits its ‘dash from gas’... but to what?
The Government has said that there will be no new gas boiler installations from 2025 but what are the alternatives? And where do we go from here? Ian Allan explains.
“In September Switch2 attended a planning event in the North of the UK; I came away from this seminar feeling that the country is not actually prepared to answer this question.
For over 40 years, the response to heat our homes has always been gas, therefore there is a quite substantial learning curve that needs to happen in a very short time frame.
We have seen changes happening in London, largely down to the Greater London Authority London Plan, and other core cities putting in place planning requirements on sustainability.
However, generally speaking these plans are most suited to high dense areas, where decentralised energy networks are best suited. When talking to those involved in planning outside of London it was striking how little understanding of the alternative there is.
The cookie-cutter approach to attaching to gas can be no more
"We passed up the opportunity to develop on a site because it was too far from the gas network" was one comment.
Another was "we are looking at a heat network in the city centre, but hadn’t thought about doing one for this development"
It is understandable that gas has been the singular answer in many areas of the country, similar to a muscle that is not exercised, the ability or part of the heat planning in the master planning process has been lost in some cases – What’s the point in changing something when the current plan works just fine?
One reason for this is that the alternatives such as a heat network depends very much on local conditions and resources; is there a local water source of heat, such as rivers, canals or disused mine? Are there local industries with the ability to supply waste heat, such as agriculture, or factories?
It is just not as simple as picking up the phone to the local gas network company; it involves engagement with the wider community and stake holders. Which is one of the many reasons why we are still seeing new housing estates being built using gas networks. In fact, even the latest housing estate that won the RIBA prize is heated by gas.
On the upside, the social housing sector is making steady progress moving away from new gas installs, with CEO's in these organisations taking the 2025 deadline seriously.
But, we are missing a process that helps developments select best alternatives.
Across the Scottish border, heat networks and decentralised energy are favoured compared to gas, with the Scottish Government encouraging renewable energy to be used across Scotland. But we know that more must be done. A scary fact indeed if you think we’re merely 6 years away from the deadline (and that’s without Brexit in the mix).