‘Local decision-making and locally tailored heat decarbonisation pathways will play key role in net zero’

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POLICY around energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation needs to be clarified and must include existing buildings, Association for Decentralised Energy (ADE) declared as part of the launch of their new paper.

The Association has laid out its vision and policy proposals for heat and energy efficiency zoning in Zoning for Heat and Energy Efficiency, which was launched today in partnership with UK Power Networks, who simultaneously launched their complimentary Heat Street Project.

The paper highlights the role of local action, introducing a ‘zoning’ solution, which means taking a view of local opportunities and local constraints, and identifying the most appropriate heat decarbonisation and energy efficiency package for an area.

Charlotte Owen, Policy Manager at the ADE, commented on the launch: “Enabling local decision-making and locally tailored decarbonisation pathways will play a key role in reaching net zero.

“Without implementing approaches such as zoning, the UK risks falling behind on carbon budgets, as set out by the Committee on Climate Change, by missing opportunities for whole systems optimisation, including the use of demand side response.

“The report suggests that the UK must commit to a strategic patchwork approach to heat decarbonisation, over a single technology pathway.

“Otherwise, we risk preventing local areas that already have clear decarbonisation opportunities from acting.”

The ADE is a trade association which represents more than 160 interested parties across the industrial, commercial and public sectors.

The ADE is calling for government to introduce a clear, strategic policy framework for heat decarbonisation and energy efficiency, bringing together the fragmented mix of decisions, innovations and demonstrations that are currently commonplace across the UK.

While being fragmented, policy today also aims mostly at new buildings, the trade association explained.

However, most of the buildings that need to be decarbonised are already built.

Therefore, the ADE wants to see government introduce new policies to retrofit heat decarbonisation and energy efficiency into the existing building stock too – addressing the ‘retrogap’ in policy.

The most apt way to achieve both outcomes, the Association proposes, is through ‘zoning’.

Heat is inherently local, with different areas of the UK able to take advantage of different heat and energy efficiency opportunities.

They will also have differing needs in terms of infrastructure and the associated skills and supply chains.

As such, to meet our climate change targets, there is no ‘one size fits all’ option and every solution for decarbonisation will require some level of in-home disruption for consumers.

The ADE argues that zoning frameworks for heat and energy efficiency can tackle these issues by enabling local buy-in, targeted local solutions, and greater levels of consumer engagement.

The Association explains that zoning can be used to empower local decision making, with key principles set at a national level but directed into particular local zones by local actors.

This would allow areas that can make progress towards decarbonisation now to do so and enable greater collaboration between local stakeholders.

UK Power Networks are leading this charge, and today launched their industry first project, Heat Street, which will begin to explore opportunities for industry and local authority collaboration presented by zoning.

Ian Cameron, Head of Customer Service and Innovation at UK Power Networks, commented: “We are delighted to support the ADE in its approach to decarbonisation of heat through a local zoning framework.

“By working closely and collaboratively, we can bring local authorities and key stakeholders to the discussion and enact targeted solutions to facilitate the uptake of cost-efficient low carbon heating for all customers.

“In fact we’ve already embarked on this journey by launching our Heat Street project, which will deliver learnings to demonstrate the true value of undertaking the zoning approach on our journey to Net Zero.”

To reach net zero, according to the Association, there’s a need to create policy landscape that enables a cost-competitive market for low carbon heat and energy efficiency, and signal to investors that these markets are open for business.

Zoning frameworks ‘further enhance’ these markets’ potential by considering which low carbon solutions are suited to different local contexts, and encouraging the implementation of supportive policies to enable their uptake.

This enables those with a financial stake in the area to consider investing in skills, jobs, infrastructure or in-home improvements, helping to create green-collar jobs that are so needed as part of a wider green recovery from COVID-19.

Nathan Sanders, Managing Director of Distributed Energy at SSE Enterprise commented on the plans: “Our experience in owning and managing distributed energy assets tells us that ‘heat zones’ would be a vital tool to ensure heat networks can be delivered in areas where they provide maximum benefit, boosting investments at the necessary speed and scale.

“We also believe that a full local decarbonisation can efficiently happen by integrating heat, transport and renewables infrastructure into a ‘whole systems’ approach that would optimise local resources and enable a smarter energy system.”