The UK will have to pump up the heat to meet carbon targets

To achieve the tough UK carbon targets, a major decarbonisation of heat production in the building sector is required. Heat pumps have a significant role to play, proposes Marc Overson, Panasonic Heating and Cooling UK & Ireland country manager.

How does the recent exit from the European Union impact the UK’s effort towards carbon reduction? Theresa May’s decision to replace the Department of Energy and Climate Change with the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy has raised concerns that there has been a decrease in efforts to reduce carbon emissions, with industry commentators and green lobby groups fearing the UK will loosen its position on climate change measures following Brexit.

In a bid to meet its 80 per cent reduction target by 2050, the UK is taking steps to source 15 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. There will also be significant changes underway in terms of our energy mix. By 2030, the UK will have closed 82 per cent of its existing fossil fuel based power station capacity1. The government is looking at cleaner ways of generating electricity including a potential role for nuclear alongside renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and tidal power.

However, the tough targets set cannot be met by large-scale electricity generation alone. The government will continue to look to reduce the UK’s emissions by targeting energy efficiencies across all sectors including buildings. Buildings already account for 50 per cent of global electricity consumption and according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), that figure is going to jump by 80 per cent due to rapid urbanisation over the next 25 years2.

Meeting the UK’s 2050 greenhouse gas reduction target efficiently is likely to require almost a full decarbonisation of heat production in the building sector, according to analysts Frontier Economics and Element Energy in a report for the CCC3. Analysis carried out by the CCC suggests that the roll-out of heat pumps is likely to form a substantial part of this process.

The government has sought to increase the take-up of heat pumps in both the residential and commercial sectors through the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme. Ground, water and air-to-water heat pumps are eligible for tariff payments for generation of heat (in terms of pence/ kWh) by renewable fuels.

It is essential that controls are part of an efficient heat pump system. The IEA argues that there is massive potential for improved energy efficiency in buildings. It says that up to 82 per cent of energy efficiency measures remain untapped in buildings today; up to half of this energy efficiency potential can be realised through improved control of the building and the integration of systems that work together2.

Panasonic is currently developing a system which combines the benefits of air source heat pump technology, solar power and the intelligence of smart meters; with the company’s simple yet effective control solutions to work in conjunction with the energy grid for a green revolution. With the demand for energy increasing, the grid has to adapt as society requires a more constant supply. Intelligent electricity networks – Smart Grids – will be a key component in the UK’s energy strategy to meet government targets. In the last few years, Smart grid projects have been growing in number, size and scope throughout Europe.

Panasonic is part of the Smart Electric Lyon consortium, a project that looks at electricity consumption as a key contributor to building energy solutions. The project aims to develop a wide range of innovative facilities and services through real-life experiments to test energysaving technologies measuring how consumers can control energy consumption. This experiment, unprecedented in scale in Europe, will be conducted for four years in more than 25,000 homes, businesses and communities of Grand Lyon. It is intended to test innovative solutions that will consume less energy and perform better than traditional systems in order to establish a sustainable alternative.

Panasonic will provide the project with a variety of its energy efficient heating and cooling products including the Aquarea air source heat pump.

One outdoor unit - which may be reinforced by solar panels - heats the water for domestic use and for the radiators or radiant floor. The system can also be retrofitted to the central heating system to reduce installation costs. It is the most innovative option for complete retrofits and for new builds.

The UK is in the midst of a massive change as it undergoes rapid electrification. We are witnessing more electric vehicles, electric heat pumps, an integration of solar PV and a drift from fossil fuels. The good news is that the technology is here today. Smart grids and controllable heat pumps are key to achieving a sustainable future. Companies including Panasonic are leading this progress with innovative solutions that reduce carbon, save energy and improve comfort for households and businesses alike.


1) The New Power Cost League Table: A clear view of the consumer cost of new build power stations, Tidal Lagoon Power, July 2016.

2) World Energy Outlook 2015, International Energy Agency, November 2015.

3) Pathways to high penetration of heat pumps. Report prepared for the Committee on Climate Change, Frontier Economics and Element Energy, October 2013.

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