By Steve Fraser
Chief Executive Officer, Cadent
Today’s Energy White Paper
has been long awaited and marks a major step forward in the energy debate, bringing much needed clarity and a sense of real purpose to an area of our lives which will define how we live over the coming generations. We are especially pleased to see the emphasis placed on consumers.
As a country we have made incredible strides over the past decades to bring climate change to the front of the policy agenda and to couple that with real progress in decarbonising electricity production. You only need to look at the phenomenal growth in wind and solar generation since 2010, and the corresponding collapse in coal, to see that. But progress towards decarbonising the energy system as a whole has been patchy. As electricity has raced ahead, industry and heating, and to a lesser extent transport, have lagged behind.
Today’s White Paper could represent a turning point. It could, and I hope it will, ensure that decarbonising energy
is never again a synonym for decarbonising electricity
, instead broadening the debate around how we reach Net Zero to include those harder to reach areas, like how we heat our homes. It is vital that we do so in a way that ensures consumers are front of mind and that the most vulnerable in our communities are protected and supported as this transition takes place.
It is my real hope that the publication of this Energy White Paper will provide much needed momentum to the debate around how we decarbonise the heating of our homes. The decisions we make on this issue over the next five years may well have a profound impact over the next hundred.
There is an increasing emphasis on heat pumps as a key solution to heating and I’m clear that that they will play a major role in providing low carbon heating to homes in many parts of the UK. It is important, however, that we don’t see heat pumps as a panacea.
We know from working day in and day out in communities across our network many of the country’s housing stock would need to change dramatically at a cost to customers and the reality is that for many people their gas boilers and the gas networks that support them provide a reliable and cost-effective means of heating their homes. Whilst heat pumps are a fantastic, energy efficient, piece of technology and represent a great solution for many new build, well-insulated and modern homes they won’t be suitable for everyone.
This is an issue we need to consider and I hope the White Paper helps to stimulate the debate on a balanced energy solution which doesn’t pit ‘molecule vs electron’ but looks at the issue through the lens of the consumer. In this light the roll out of heat pumps and the installation of hydrogen-ready boilers fuelled by a repurposed gas distribution network, would be the best choice to meet the heating needs of our communities.