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Report calls for technology agnostic approach to heat and buildings policy

The Sustainable Energy Association (SEA) and Partners’ latest report details the benefits of a technology-agnostic approach to decarbonising buildings; tailoring solutions to achieve the best outcomes. 

The SEA and Partners welcome the Government’s drive towards low-carbon heating systems in buildings as part of the Net-Zero agenda. The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement reinforced these commitments through the announcement of the Energy Efficiency Taskforce, delivering overdue reductions in energy demand, and an ambition to reduce energy consumption by 15% by 2030. The recently released ‘Mission Zero: Independent Review of Net-Zero’, by former Energy Minister, Chris Skidmore MP, also provided a clear assessment of how Net-Zero policy needs to go further and faster.

The SEA has long advocated for a ‘fabric-first’, holistic approach to decarbonising buildings. This report brings together expertise from across the industry to explain why incorporating a diverse range of low-carbon technologies into heat and buildings policy is crucial to delivering Net Zero. Government policy should be shaped to deploy the best technologies, in the right circumstances, for the best results—an evidence-led, data-driven, bottom-up and technology-agnostic route to Net Zero. Conversely, it also assesses how the Government’s current approach could be improved, drawing on existing examples from the UK, and from international policies, to drive a more agnostic approach.

The report explores the following primary benefits:
• Accelerated Route to Net-Zero Buildings: How technology agnosticism will target and channel investments into a variety of low-carbon technologies for decarbonising buildings at an accelerated rate, whilst maximising the benefits of healthy and cost-effective buildings.
• Flexible and Smart Building Energy Systems: How a technology-agnostic approach puts more emphasis on the installation of smart and flexible technologies to reduce the costs associated with operating buildings and transitioning to Net Zero.
• Effective Consumer Education and Engagement: How an outcomes-based approach to heat decarbonisation is more appropriate to what, where, and how low-carbon technologies are put forward and installed in buildings, marrying up consumer desires with effective solutions.
• High Quality Skills and Clear Local and National Planning: How a more agnostic approach benefits the transition by deploying tailored solutions using
the most relevant skills at a local level; primarily driven by bottom-up, evidence-based, building-level decision making that target outcomes over a one-size-fits-all approach.
• Stimulating Manufacturing, Supply Chains and Innovation: How this approach will help to stimulate the market and grow capacity for transitioning to Net Zero. As the investment landscape takes on a more concrete form, with clear pathways for industry to supply demand, manufacturing capabilities, product investment, and supply chain diversity and resilience will grow, benefitting the UK’s low-carbon economy.

The SEA’s ask is that if the Government is truly driven to capitalise on the best outcomes from the transition to Net Zero and deliver solutions for the country that match these desires, then policies covering the built environment need to be more data driven, evidence led, outcomes focused and technology agnostic.

Bim Afolami, MP, commented: “The Sustainable Energy Association’s latest report emphasises the need for flexible, low carbon and smart technologies to be at the centre of home heat solutions. Our built environment is historically complex and diverse, so a range of interventions are needed across the domestic heat market. This report sets out the need for a variety of data-driven, market-led and bottom-up approaches to decarbonise construction, diversify supply, promote cost-efficiency and support delivery. The contributors to this report have done the legwork to demonstrate how this can be achieved in line with our mission to reach Net Zero by 2050.“

Jade Lewis, Chief Executive of the SEA, commented: “The SEA is steadfast in its commitments to deliver living and working space fit for future generations. To help us realise this vision, government policy for heat and buildings needs to be long term and joined-up, taking a fabric-first, holistic and technology-agnostic approach. This report lays the foundations as to why these policies should take into consideration a wider range of technologies, so that we can provide homes and buildings with the best solutions for Net Zero.”

“At ABC, since 2019, we’ve been all about energy systems integration, whether that be in new build, retrofit, social housing to business parks. What is clear is that there is no one size fits all. To achieve better outcomes, we have learnt that it is vital there is an evidence-based approach to policy, regulation, and funding, and this report highlights this need too.”

Dan Cook, Chief Executive Officer, Active Building Centre said: “The REA is delighted to support this report and a technology-agnostic approach to heat and buildings policy. The adoption of the most appropriate and effective low-carbon technologies will be accelerated by a technology-agnostic strategy, which will also produce the best results for building occupants without stifling innovation.”

Dr Nina Skorupska CBE FEI, Chief Executive Officer, Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technologies said: “With 2050 fast approaching, the UK must use every tool and technology in its armoury to bring down our emissions. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ and a technologically agnostic approach will enable a wider, more suitably skilled, and better-qualified workforce to deliver the solutions we urgently need for decarbonisation.”

Steve Bratt, Chief Executive Officer, Electrical Contractors’ Association said: “This report highlight the importance of using all the tools at our disposal to reach the target of net zero. I am pleased that it recognises the importance of safe, compliant and competently installed equipment in meeting consumers’ needs.”

David Cowburn, Chief Operating Officer, NAPIT, said: “Taking the carbon out of buildings requires smarter and more flexible heating systems that ensure comfort in every home. Innovative British companies such as Caldera, Sunamp, and tepeo offer smart thermal stores that work with or instead of heat pumps. Thermal Storage UK encourages the UK government to provide comparable support for a wide range of low-carbon technologies to electrify heating.”

Tom Lowe, Founding Director, Thermal Storage UK, said: “A breath of fresh air. Seeing in print honest, unbiased, and sensible options to Net Zero is positively refreshing—great work Sustainable Energy Association!”

23 February 2023

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