Meeting our carbon emission targets

Meeting our carbon emission targets

A new report from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has stated that emissions targets will not be met unless there is implementation of “a credible new strategy and a much stronger policy framework” from the government with the committee claiming that “Action is required now to reduce emissions and to prepare for future decisions.”

The report targets the decarbonisation of heating as a major obstacle needed to be overcome and offers heat pumps, a hydrogen gas network via the existing gas grid and district heating networks as potential long term solutions. However it did not offer what the best balance of new technologies would be stating that more evidence is required about costs, industry’s capacity to deliver and preferences of households and businesses.”

If the UK target of eliminating emissions from heat by 2050 is to be achieved then “a national programme to switch buildings on the gas grid to low-carbon heating would need to begin around 2030.”

Therefore a decision on which route should be taken and invested in must be made by 2025 with the failure to make a clear choice potentially adding to future costs due to “suboptimal infrastructure development or overlaps between the roll-out of different low-carbon heat solutions in a given area.”

The committee however did state that there is still time for “experimentation over the next decade or so to develop the best strategy” but warned against a wait and see policy.

The report suggests that preparations can now be made regarding the decision:  For heat pumps this will require that a market of sufficient size is developed to enable increased roll-out in future. For hydrogen, there will need to be pilots and demonstrations of sufficient scale to fully understand the potential challenges… Before a decision to proceed with hydrogen, it is essential that CCS is under active development in the UK, in order to provide a low-carbon route to producing hydrogen at scale.”

It has also suggested that a number of short term steps can be taken to start the emission cutting process right now including for example fitting heat pumps in homes that are off the gas grid, installing low-carbon district heating networks in densely populated areas, and increasing injections of biomethane into the gas grid adding “these opportunities can be taken within funding that has already been agreed provided policy measures are well-targeted and we learn the lessons from previous UK and international experience.”

Improvements should also be made to the energy efficiency of the current housing stocks and that new homes should be built to be highly energy efficient with new builds future proofed for low-carbon heating systems to avoid costly retrofitting.

Finally the committee called on the government to set “clear goals for improving efficiency and rolling out low-carbon heating” in its emissions reductions plan for meeting the fourth and fifth carbon budgets.

Scottish Renewables director of policy Jenny Hogan said: “Already behind on its climate and renewable energy targets, we agree government needs a clear strategy to decarbonise heat – which makes up almost half of the energy used in the UK. As part of a package of support government must now reform the Renewable Heat Incentive to ensure the roll-out of low-carbon heat networks and technologies.”

As well as these large scale projects numerous smaller scale projects will also be crucial in helping is reduce our carbon emissions. They may not seem to do a great deal on their own but combined they will all add up to take a significant chunk out of our emissions total.

One such scheme is attempting to make Point and Sandwick on the Outer Hebridean island of Lewis the UK’s first LED community. Already approximately 140 homes have applied for the free lighting offered by the scheme.

Tighean Innse Gall are working with community windfarm charity Point and Sandwick Trust on the five-year project to convert the whole peninsula to energy-efficient lighting in a bid to tackle fuel poverty in the area while also addressing the issue of climate change.

The LED Energy Communities project officially launched a few months ago and since then project officer Dan Morrison has been working on replacing the lightbulbs in houses and carrying out energy efficiency surveys while he is there.

The Climate Challenge Fund are also supporting the project in this its first year. It is anticipated the project will grow to two staff for its second and third years, before dropping back again to one. Dan said: “There are about 1,200 homes in the Point and Sandwick area and the plan is to reach them all in the next five years. “The people are nice and have been very receptive to the project.” He added: “Point and Sandwick Trust have been great to work with. You’ve got strong people there on the board and they are so focused on doing something, not just talking about it.”

Point and Sandwick Trust general manager Donald John MacSween said this LED Energy Communities Project was close to their heart, as the charity behind the Beinn Ghrideag wind farm — the biggest community wind farm in the UK and winner of the ‘best community project’ at the Scottish Green Energy Awards last year. Donald John said: “Fuel poverty is a major problem in the Western Isles and we are top of the national league of fuel poverty statistics. “A wet, windy climate, ageing population, low wages, a significant number of properties below the national ‘tolerable standard’ and above-average prices for fuel of all types all combine to make fuel poverty a major issue.

“In all the extensive community consultations we undertook in Point and Sandwick over the last few years the fuel poverty issue loomed large.  We determined to do something practical to address the problem by going into partnership with TIG to make Point and Sandwick the first LED community in the UK. “Point and Sandwick Trust have a strong commitment to helping people in direct, practical ways, and by helping to reduce consumers’ carbon footprint we are partly fulfilling our long-term aim of moving to a renewable energy future for Point and Sandwick.”

Whether it is large macro projects such as a reworking of the gas network or micro ones such as the LED lighting initiative in Lewis all will aid in the reduction of our carbon emissions. However, as confirmed in the report, we have to act now to ensure that we are ready when the time comes to implement the new targets.

A number of key decisions must be made and plans drawn up to ensure that all is completed in time. Without this we run the risk of not making our targets incurring massive fines and still having to reduce the emissions anyway or face more sanctions. Therefore now is the time to start preparation on the largest of projects whilst implementing many of the smaller ones as soon as possible.

At the end of the day it’s not just about meeting targets. Reducing carbon emissions will help create a cleaner, safer environment for all of us to live in and who wouldn’t want to prepare for that?


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