The media and scientific papers are awash with reports on the transition to net zero energy supply options – hydrogen, CCUS, solar, wind, tide etc.
It is, though, disappointing for me that much less coverage is given to the demand side of energy. It stands to reason that a major lever to attaining net zero is to use less energy.
So what sectors demand most energy and can the demand be reduced?
The UK National Statistics Office produces DUKES – Digest of UK Energy Statistics – where the UK energy supply and consumption is shown in detail. The following figure is an extract – it clearly shows that the UK household is a very significant energy consumer. Residential use can be further divided into 65% gas, 22% electricity, 7% liquid fuel and 6% bio energy.
It is self evident that carbon neutral housing would make a huge contribution to net zero. As demonstrated by Sero Homes the carbon neutral house is achievable with no need for technology development or grid/gas network upgrades.
The Sero House scheme in Wales achieves net zero with solar panels, energy-storing batteries, thermal insulation, ground-source heat pumps and innovative ventilation systems. The scheme can also export electricity back to the grid when in surplus.
It is a no-brainer that we should be pushing for all new housing to be carbon neutral. The UK Government in their 2019 Spring Statement stated that all new homes will have to built to “world-leading levels of efficiency” by 2025. Why wait until 2025 when Barratt and Persimmon say such house could be delivered in 18 months? Equally we have to move the pace up on improving the existing housing stock’s carbon footprint.
Of course all this will cost money but so will CCS, renewable stations, hydrogen and infrastructure upgrades. Let’s use capital expenditure and stimulus packages wisely; tackling the demand side of energy seems a wise choice.
Would the utility companies selling energy see this as a wise choice?
Tom Baxter is visiting professor of chemical engineering at Strathclyde University and a retired technical director at Genesis Oil and Gas Consultants