Electrification of Heat

  • Nearly half the energy used in the UK is for heating.
  • More than half the natural gas used is for heating – compared to 34% for generating electricity.
  • The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere remained below 280 parts per million (ppm) for 800 thousand years until the start of the Industrial Revolution in the eighteenth century.
  • The concentration has risen from 280 ppm in 1780 up to 400 ppm in 2013.
  • Every thinking person (except Nigel Lawson) accepts that we must control carbon emissions, or face unknown consequences in the decades ahead.
  • If we are aiming for a low carbon economy we need to stop combustion of gas, oil, coal and biomass.
  • What is the alternative?

Heat Transfer

There is plenty of natural heat all around us (all at a temperature above absolute zero). What we need to do is to start managing that heat.

If the heat is in the wrong place we can transfer heat using heat pumps.

If the heat is too dispersed then we can concentrate heat using heat pumps.

It is now possible to store heat from the time it is freely available (summer) to the time when it is needed (winter).

Heating accounts for nearly half of UK national energy demand. It is largely supplied by natural gas. However, the future of heating will be very different, with a strong move towards the electrification of heat. All UK 2050 scenarios which meet the 80% carbon reduction target include a major electrified heat supply. Heat pumps are the key technology, delivering 80-90% of heating.

Heat pumps can deliver low carbon heating now. They will deliver even lower carbon heating as the electricity grid is decarbonised. The same heat pumps can deliver low carbon cooling now and lower carbon cooling as the grid is decarbonised.

Electrification of Heat

There are now new ways of organising information and temperature to provide renewable heating and renewable cooling by recycling heat in district circuits.

The search for new techniques to control carbon emissions is advancing. There are alternatives to burning fossil fuels to keep us warm in winter – and cool in summer. The answer is to recycle heat between seasons and within districts – and by recycling heat it is also possible to provide heating without contributing to urban air pollution.

Demand Response and Distributed Heat Storage

The demand for electricity fluctuates during each 24 hour day. The supply of electricity also fluctuates, with photovoltaic cells generating electricity on clear days and wind turbines when the wind is blowing.

The National Grid must be able to guarantee power at times of peak demand.

"Demand Response" can be used to stimulate use of electricity at off-peak times (by lowering prices) and to discourage use of electricity at peak times (by increasing prices). Demand response goes hand-in-hand with temporary heat storage in insulated hot water cylinders: a low price signal can be used to trigger heat pumps to increase the temperature of DHW storage.

Balanced Energy Networks

An Innovate UK funded demonstration is pioneering the electrification of heat in the Balanced Energy Networks project in central London.



See Low Carbon Heating       See Low Carbon Cooling       See Ground Source Energy