The Zero-Carbon Challenge is Set
June 3 2019
The zero-carbon challenge is set – but can we meet it? The UK should move rapidly towards a net zero carbon economy.
At the beginning of May, the government’s independent Committee on Climate Change (CCC) issued the remarkable recommendation that the UK should move rapidly towards a net zero carbon economy.
The UK is already committed to a hugely challenging 80 percent greenhouse-gas reduction target by 2050, but the CCC’s latest report points the way to zero UK carbon emissions over the same timescale, if we start now.
While the CCC’s report spans the entire UK economy, a specific chapter on buildings focuses on the fundamental challenge in achieving low-to-no-carbon building heating.
The report refers to the essential and growing role of electricity from renewables and the need to deploy smart tech to control the country’s energy demand, supply and storage.
“The CCC’s latest, hugely ambitious report shows what’spossible – and the many barriers that would need to be overcome”
But two standout recommendations are for massive rollouts of hybrid (dual fuel) heat pumps and hydrogen boilers across the UK (either supplementing or replacing natural gas boilers).
These two proposals would boost low-carbon heating in UK buildings, from 4.5 per cent now to a game-changing 90 per cent by 2050 – but at an eye-watering abatement cost of about £140/tCO2e (non-residential £95/tCO2e), which would result in tens of billions of capital expenditure per annum.
Although the CCC suggests that installing these technologies would become more affordable if they were deployed at scale, it acknowledges that this won’t be easy.
Firstly, it would require positive, urgent and joined-up government energy policies, including “a fully fledged strategy fordecarbonised heat”, as soon as next year, along with a ‘Future Homes’ standard, which is necessary to ensure new UK builds have low-carbon heating and excellent energy efficiency by 2025.
With energy efficiency offering the most cost-effective route to energy savings, the CCC also wants an “energy efficiency retrofit of 29 million homes to be a national infrastructure priority”.
However, any such programme would need to achieve far more than the Green Deal retrofit scheme, which failed some five years ago.
Secondly, the UK is well short of the capacity and infrastructure needed to deploy heat pumps and hydrogen boilers, as envisaged in the report.
Replacing natural gas boilers would mean boosting the current 20,000 annual heat pump installations in the UK by a factor of 50, and delivering hydrogen-boiler infrastructure and kit within 15 years, from a standing start.
With these challenges in mind, the report suggests that the Construction Sector Deal is deployed to tackle the skill gaps in low-carbon heating, ventilation and thermal comfort across building design, construction and installation.
Yet, despite throwing in a veritable kitchen sink of ideas for how to achieve a zero-carbon built environment, the report doesn’t include the scope for contributions from BIM, whole-life building performance or the even the circular economy.
The CCC does not set government policy, but its latest, hugely ambitious report shows what’s possible, based on strong data and authoritative analysis. It also identifies the many barriers that would need to be overcome.
However, the zero-carbon challenge has been issued and it’s now for government, clients and our industry to consider how to respond.
McCoy Contractors is aware of the impact that the industry has and is committed to protecting the environment that it works in.
As a forward-thinking contractor McCoy uses techniques and innovations to help reduce impact where it can:
• Energy efficient working practices and machinery
• Multi occupancy vehicle for transporting staff to and from site
• Locally source labour and materials where-ever possible.
McCoy has dedicated time and effort into developing and created new innovative products to aid its workforce out on site and reduce the impact that construction has on the environment today and for future generations.
McCoy’s Managing Director, Chris Haughey said: “In 2018 McCoy Contractors reduced its carbon footprint, procured 70% of its materials from within a 30-mile radius and put £4m worth of expenditure back into the local community.”
(Source: The zero-carbon challenge is set – but can we meet it? https://www.constructionnews.co.uk/agenda/opinion/paul-reeve-piece-31-05-2019/ )