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White Paper

The 2020s is the decade to decarbonise heat

image credit: Delta-EE iStock licence
Andy Bradley's picture
Partner, LCP Delta

Andy is a Partner at LCP Delta. LCP Delta combines the expertise of LCP Energy and Delta-EE to provide a single partner across the whole energy value chain. Since joining Delta-EE in 2010, Andy...

  • Member since 2020
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  • Sep 10, 2020

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Decarbonising heat in existing buildings has long been a challenge, but opportunities are finally emerging. The heating transition is accelerating, and market trends are converging right now to create strong foundations for success – if market players are ready to capitalise. Read the latest Whitepaper from our heat research team. 

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Sep 10, 2020

market trends are converging right now to create strong foundations for success

The foundations aren't just important to build towards this, but the more heat is decarbonized in new buildings today the less work will need to be done after the fact down the road. Buildings have such a longer lifecycle compared with transportation, electronics etc that the emissions decisions are more important today than in nearly any other sector. 

Andy Bradley's picture
Andy Bradley on Sep 15, 2020

Thanks for the comment. “Fabric first” is a principle I total agree with – if we minimise the need for energy, the challenge to decarbonise will be a lot easier.  There is simply no excuse for not having high energy efficiency standards for new buildings. But refurbishing existing buildings is very important as most of them will still be here in 2050.

Masood Ahmad's picture
Masood Ahmad on Nov 29, 2020

Let's first decarbonize power grid and then transportation where economics are compelling. Heat will come later. Numbers don't make much sense when gas is $3-4/mmBTu

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Nov 30, 2020

Well, this report came out of Europe, where some grids (e.g. the French, Swiss, Swedish) are already very low carbon, and gas is more expensive.

But you do have a good point that heat decarbonization using heat pumps as discussed in this article really is dependent on clean electrical power.  My local grid (in the central US, in oil & gas country) has enough remaining coal power that a gas-fired home furnace is cleaner than using an electric heat pump, always for particulate pollution and sulfur, and sometimes for CO2.

The article is not great for helping with technical trade-offs.  It's seems like it's a marketing paper promoting consulting services for companies that want to install new (electric) heating systems.

As far as technical arguments for heat pumps as clean heat sources, I think they are weak until the grid is decarbonized.  They look particularly bad when they are treated as marginal load.  Heat is a very peaky seasonal load; even as grids become cleaner on average, power companies turn-on their oldest and dirtiest plants in order to meet marginal demand peaks.

Rather than heat pumps, I prefer district heat networks.  They can be powered by industrial scale heat pumps when clean energy is plentiful, and switch to using waste heat from thermal power plants when it's not. Insulated tanks can add cheap energy storage to allow use of off-peak electricity.

Andy Bradley's picture
Thank Andy for the Post!
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