Electrification of the Heating Infrastructure in the UK

In the UK gas has been popular choice of energy for heating our domestic, commercial and industrial buildings for years. This dependence on gas has been partly fuelled by the abundance of supply from our North Sea reserves and the resulting low price of gas as a fuel. While the infrastructure to efficiently heat a building was more expensive the resultant running cost savings justified the installation of gas pipework, boilers, water pipes and radiators. Once the large up front investment in the heating infrastructure has been made, the switch from gas becomes harder. Much of the UK has been reliant on gas heating systems for decades but things are changing.

With environmental concerns and changes to legislation, the confidence in gas is slipping and electricity is becoming a more attractive option. It is widely acknowledged that while burning gas at source to generate heat for an individual building is still slightly more economical, it has a hugely negative impact on our carbon emissions with every single gas fired heater or boiler contributing to our emissions of CO2.

The UK government is actively trying to reduce gas energy usage, with incentives in place to make the switch and potential changes to law coming into place.

Britain is aiming to produce Net Zero Emissions by 2050, meaning that there will be net-zero carbon emissions to stabilise global warming. There are two different routes to achieving this: reducing existing emissions and actively removing greenhouse gases.

When looking at reducing the emissions we produce, more electrification is key. Electricity is zero carbon when consumed and it is estimated that by 2050, 70% of the world’s electricity supply will come from low carbon sources such as nuclear, solar or wind.

Renewables are already supplying more of our power, having generated 43% of the UK’s electricity in 2020. Low carbon sources, including renewables and nuclear power generated 59% in 2020. You can see how much energy in the National Grid is currently generated through renewable sources here.

As commercial and industrial heating experts, we’ve noticed an increasing interest in electric heating solutions as we all look to reduce our carbon emissions.

Electric heating systems have several benefits over a gas boiler heating system such as:

  • Efficiency – electric heating is 100% efficient at the point of use and when paired with a renewable energy source is very low carbon
  • Value – while electricity may be considered to be more expensive to run per unit than gas, this is changing as gas costs increase and production decreases. The cost of low carbon electricity sources is decreasing, making greener electrical systems cost effective and a key tool in meeting our Zero Carbon targets.

Switching to electric is particularly attractive for those with a decentralised energy system – an energy source not from the central grid. A decentralised energy reduces fossil fuel use as the energy is created from waste plants, combined heat and power, biomass or solar energy. These systems are more efficient due to less transmission losses and would help reduce carbon output when used to power an electric heating system.

If you are considering the switch to electric reduce your company’s carbon footprint, we would be delighted to help you work out the best solution for your space.