If those countries which have declared the aim of achieving “Net Zero” are to ever actually achieve it then I have news for them: they won’t do it by diktat, threats or bullying.
They must bring the people along with them by offering solutions that at a minimum are easy to implement, don’t demand major behavioural change, work as well as whatever they have now and are affordable both for the consumer and for the taxpayer who will probably be subsidising it.
If they don’t do these things, then inevitably people will not be willing or easily persuadable to part with their money and neither should the taxpayer.
Moreover, it’s important to ensure there is still a choice. To ensure my own family’s energy security I have oil central heating (we’re not on the gas grid), an LPG hob and a wood-burning stove.
I’m also toying with the idea of some solar and a battery system, although I haven’t yet found one that could run my system for a week that wouldn’t require me to remortgage the house!
But, under new rules out for consultation, the Scottish Government has told us that the use of “polluting heating systems” will be prohibited after 2045. So you’d think that would give us plenty of time to make the changes necessary, but that’s not correct in all cases.
Why? Because it’s proposed that those purchasing a home or business premises will have to stop using a polluting heating system within an as yet undetermined fixed period following the completion of the sale.
Assuming that the seller of that house or business premises goes on to buy a new one then they will also pick up that liability, so some could be forced to make that change much earlier than 2045.
The Scottish Government also wants to introduce a new law that will require homeowners to make sure that their homes meet a “reasonable” minimum energy efficiency standard by 2033.
As I understand it that means, in practice, achieving at least an EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) rating of C or better. That’s a mere nine years away if it comes into force. It’s another expensive exercise.
The problem is that as it stands people’s options are extremely limited. In fact, they are almost non-existent because as of now the only way you could possibly comply is to fit a heat pump.
In 2023, a mere 6,388 heat pumps were installed in Scotland. I personally have lots of issues with heat pumps but something I find very concerning is that there is a plan to fit them with a technology called Demand Side Response (DSR) that will help balance the grid.
OFGEM says “domestic DSR is a key element in achieving Government plans to decarbonise the energy system by 2035. It is a concept driven by domestic consumers adjusting their consumption in response to the needs and requirements of the energy system and being rewarded through reduced bills.”
Having a naturally suspicious mind I asked for an opinion about this on social media and was told it was about demand flexibility and can be achieved through “preheating, automation and storage (building fabric, hot water tanks and heat batteries).” Fine if you can afford all that. Spoiler: most can’t.
The fact remains that your heat pump could potentially be turned down or off remotely if the grid gets overloaded as was demonstrated in a recent trial of a system called Equinox run by the National Grid.
Whilst hydrogen is not being ruled out, two English trials have been cancelled due to protests primarily over concerns raised around safety, but some agitators also claimed that it was simply a way of keeping the natural gas industry going.
A trial in Scotland in Fife is due to go ahead this year but I wouldn’t put it past various lobbyists to try to kill that off as well. It will be using green hydrogen produced by electrolysis using Norwegian technology.
The Fife trial will use boilers, but in the Netherlands they now have a project involving an initial 17 new houses where they’ve moved on from conventional boiler technology to using a catalytic boiler made by Giacomini in Italy, which is flameless and produces no emissions at all.
This is similar in some ways to solid oxide fuel cell-based combined heat and power units. Neither of these options are as yet available here and those intent on all electric monopoly will try to ensure they never are.
To make Net Zero more attractive and affordable, we need more options. Heating your house used to be simple but it’s getting increasingly complicated, increasingly more expensive to install and over-reliant on one energy source. This must change.
By the way, I can replace my LPG with Bio LPG. It costs a lot more but at least it’s a solution and the price will ultimately fall. But it means we can still cook during power cuts when everyone’s heat pumps are off. Hooray!