UK must turn its back on gas boilers to meet carbon targets

By Nathan Coyne

Gas boilers for home heating will have to be virtually eliminated by 2050 if the UK is to meet its carbon reduction targets, according to a new report.

The use of petrol and diesel engines to power cars will also need to be "much less dominant" and replaced with electric power and biofuels, a policy meeting in the House of Commons heard.

The conclusions, in a report by the UK Energy Research Centre, are based on modelling the likely shape of the energy sector in 2050 when greenhouse emissions will need to have fallen by 80% on 1990's level.

A "wholesale transformation of the energy system" is required, the report says, and given the scale and complexity of the change a decarbonisation target should be included in the energy bill to provide a policy commitment for the investors who will need to provide the capital for the development of new technologies.

Professor Paul Ekins, one of the report’s authors, told MPs and peers home heating would "have to change radically" to meet carbon targets.  Efficiency will have to be significantly improved for new and existing buildings with heat provided by electrically driven heat pumps and bioenergy.

District heating is another alternative, already in use in Denmark, where household boilers are replaced by centralised neighbourhood heating systems.

The internal combustion engine will be "much less dominant" by 2050, Ekins said, and replaced with battery powered and fuel cell vehicles.

New gas fired power stations will be required to replace coal and life-expired nuclear power stations, but beyond 2030 the report envisages them only as back-up to renewable energy.

To meet the 2050 emission target, electricity generation in the UK needs to be 80% from low carbon power generation by 2030.

No such target was included in the November 2012 energy bill but the report sees "little reason not to include one" unless the targets in the Climate Change Act 2008 are to be revised at a later date.

It adds: "This target may therefore be seen as a litmus test of the government's determination to meet the reductions in carbon emissions to which the UK is currently statutorily committed".