The heating of homes is a major contributor to the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions accounting for 13% of total emissions. 1 This is comparable to the carbon emissions of all petrol and diesel cars in the UK. 2 Meeting the UK government’s net zero emissions goal for 2050 will only be possible by complete decarbonisation of the building stock (both existing and new). While emissions from heating have fallen by 11% since 1990 1, much of which was driven by efficiency programmes and regulation in the period 2002-2012 3, continuing decarbonisation at this pace would get us to zero emissions from buildings in 235 years and fall far short of meeting the 2050 target. Home heating energy consumption is also at risk of increasing further. Home working has developed substantially during the COVID-19 lockdown and is widely expected to remain at higher levels than pre-crisis 4 meaning that people may require houses which are on average warmer during the heating seasons. Data shows that domestic heating energy use was up by 15% during March when the lockdown started compared to March 2019 5,6., The potential for more time spent at home will make heat decarbonisation and the thermal comfort and health associated with homes even more important. There is uncertainty over the extent to which heating might practically be decarbonised in the future and what the optimal technologies may be. The aim of this paper is, to provide some clarity about the pathways forward, focusing on the next 5-10 years. We also draw on lessons learned from international examples for smart electrification of heating which we identify as one of the key strategies for decarbonisation of residential heat – at least in the short term.


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Rosenow, J., Lowes, R., Broad, O., Hawker, G., Wu, J., Qadrdan, M. & Gross, R. 2020, 'The Pathway to Net Zero Heating in the UK', UK Energy Research Centre. https://doi.org/10.5286/ukerc.edc.000941

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Last updated: 17 June 2022
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