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Weekly column by EUA's Chief Executive Mike Foster

I thought I would follow up last week's piece on relative costs of energy efficiency measures with some follow up thoughts based on presentations given by two of the GDNs at our Gas 2015 event. These complement the analysis and add to the weight of evidence which is growing about how important low carbon gas might be to meet our future decarbonisation targets.

By 2020 the UK needs to continue to rollout condensing boilers to replace older, less efficient ones. It will have taken 15 years to get these appliances near universal. No surprise really, given it took 50 years to reach high levels of market penetration for central heating; 22 for loft insulation and over 50 for double glazing. It still means a massive effort between now and 2020 for the remaining cavity walls to be insulated. 

But what happens after 2020? There needs to be a step-change in decarbonisation of heat and this needs to be delivered as cost-effectively as possible. That means for households as well as the UK as a whole. So I was most interested in WWU's findings from its 'Bridgend Project'. They have looked at a statistically representative town and assessed how the energy trilemma objectives can be met. Importantly, they used a bottom up approach to analyse the options available. What they found will shake up current thinking.

A third of consumers have minimal resources available to pay for changes to their heating systems and nearly half need subsidy to ensure a maximum payback period of 3 years. So over 80 per cent require significant help to move to alternative energy solutions - all at a time of austerity. 

More of the same will not suffice. Technology change is needed to help provide that step-change. Hydrogen will perhaps play a much bigger role than previously thought; and in the end, that means using gas. Ignoring the consumer, might make plans look good on paper, but will fail in practice.  

Best wishes, 

Mike Foster CE

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