Committee launch Decarbonising heat in homes inquiry
2 October 2020
The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee has today launched an inquiry examining the path to decarbonising heating in homes.
The BEIS Committee will examine the Government’s ‘Buildings and Heat Strategy’, due in November, and investigate the policies, priorities and timelines which are needed to decarbonise heating in residential buildings and help ensure the UK gets on track to deliver Net Zero by 2050 [full inquiry terms of reference included further below].
The Committee’s inquiry on decarbonising heat follows a successful pitch by Dr Jan Rosenow, Principal and European Programme Director, Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP), at the Committee’s “MyBEIS” evidence hearing in July and is part of the BEIS Committee’s ongoing work on net zero and its follow-up to the findings of the Climate Assembly.
In future months, the Committee will also be undertaking work on a series of other topics proposed in pitches at the MyBEIS hearing – further details of inquiry work on i) Carbon pricing ii) decarbonising industry and iii) the institutional arrangements to meet net zero, will be announced in due course.
Darren Jones, Chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, said:
“Achieving the Government’s net zero target demands that we move to decarbonising all buildings by 2050. Decarbonising heat in homes will be central to this ambition but the scale, cost and complexity of the challenge is considerable, and it is vital that we begin to map out the steps which will be needed to move away from traditional gas boilers in homes across the country.
“The Government has announced a heat strategy for later this year. As a Committee, we will want to use our inquiry to scrutinise these plans and ensure we have a long-term policy for heat that gets to grips with the challenges ahead of us, the issues around cost and technology, and around protecting consumers and the fuel poor, and enables the UK to seize the potential for new jobs and industries while helping the UK meet its net zero commitments.
“We were delighted at the response to our public call for inquiry proposals through our “MyBEIS” inquiry. The BEIS Committee will be picking up on many of the issues raised by participants at our MyBEIS public hearing in July, and will be looking to engage in future work on topics including carbon pricing, decarbonising industry, institutional arrangements to meet net zero, the future of hydrogen, fuel poverty, and consumer protections and net zero.
“As a Committee, we will want to build on the work of the Climate Assembly, which examined some of the big issues around heating and energy use in the home and proposed actions such as a ban on sales of new gas boilers from 2030 or 2035.“
The decarbonising heat in homes inquiry is likely to examine areas such as the technological challenges to decarbonising heat, issues around network capacity and distributing costs, incentives, regulation and consumer engagement & protection, and how to co-ordinate and deliver low-carbon heating.
Witness details for the Committee hearings will be confirmed at a later date.
Domestic heat accounts for 13% of the UK’s annual emissions footprint ─ comparable to the contribution of all petrol and diesel cars. Less than 5% of the heat used across the UK’s 29 million homes is from low-carbon sources. Current incentives delivered via the Renewable Heat Incentive have not encouraged many households to switch to low carbon heating. In 2018, 27,000 heat pumps were installed across the UK, compared to 1.7 million gas boilers. It is expected that 20,000 homes will need to be upgraded every week between 2025 and 2050. At the current rate, it would take over 700 years to reach the 19 million heat pumps that the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) suggests are needed.
Decarbonising heat in homes – inquiry terms of reference
The Committee welcomes evidence submissions on the terms of reference outlined below. The closing date for submissions is 13th November 2020. The key issues which this inquiry will examine includes:
- What has been the impact of past and current policies for low carbon heat, and what lessons can be learnt, including examples from devolved administrations and international comparators?
- What key policies, priorities and timelines should be included in the Government’s forthcoming ‘Buildings and Heat Strategy’ to ensure that the UK is on track to deliver Net Zero? What are the most urgent decisions and actions that need to be taken over the course of this Parliament (by 2024)?
- Which technologies are the most viable to deliver the decarbonisation of heating, and what would be the most appropriate mix of technologies across the UK?
- What are the barriers to scaling up low carbon heating technologies? What is needed to overcome these barriers?
- How can the costs of decarbonising heat be distributed fairly across consumers, taxpayers, business and government, taking account of the fuel poor and communities affected by the transition? What is the impact of the existing distribution of environmental levies across electricity, gas and fuel bills on drivers for switching to low carbon heating, and should this distribution be reviewed?
- What incentives and regulatory measures should be employed to encourage and ensure households take up low carbon heat, and how will these need to vary for different household types?
- What action is required to ensure that households are engaged, informed, supported and protected during the transition to low carbon heat, including measures to minimise disruption in homes and to maintain consumer choice?
- Where should responsibility lie for the governance, coordination and delivery of low carbon heating? What will these organisations need in order to deliver such responsibilities?
At a public hearing in July, the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee heard a series of pitches as the case was made for business, energy policy or climate change issues to be investigated by the BEIS Committee over the course of this Parliament. The ‘dragons-den’ style session format followed a call (in March) for the public to submit their own ideas for future Committee inquiries.
The eleven proposals for the MyBEIS session in July were selected from in excess of 200 submissions from a wide range of individuals and organisations received by the BEIS Committee. The BEIS Committee published a report [available via link] which includes the details of all the eligible submissions received, including that on the decarbonisation of heating from Dr Jan Rosenow, Principal and European Programme Director, Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP).
Climate Assembly UK
The BEIS Committee was one of six select committees of the House of Commons (joining Environmental Audit; Housing, Communities and Local Government; Science and Technology; Transport; and Treasury) to support the Climate Assembly UK, a citizens’ assembly on combatting climate change and achieving the pathway to net zero carbon emissions.
The Climate Assembly UK, published its final report in September, setting out a clear, internally consistent and timely path for how the UK can reach its legally binding target of net zero emissions by 2050. Climate Assembly UK’s report showed how a representative sample of the population believe the UK should meet its net zero emissions commitment with detailed recommendations across ten areas including: how we travel; what we eat and how we use the land; what we buy; heat and energy use in the home; how we generate our electricity; and greenhouse gas removals.
 Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (2017) Clean Growth Strategy
 Committee on Climate Change (2018) 2018 Progress Report to Parliament
 Committee on Climate Change (2019) Net Zero: The UK’s contribution to stopping global warming
 Energy Technologies Institute (2015) Smart Systems and Heat: Decarbonising Heat for UK Homes