Heating and cooling

In the UK, the energy we use to heat our homes makes up around half of the emissions linked to our homes. Many houses across the UK are not well-insulated, meaning that power generated to heat homes is being wasted. There is a need to urgently improve energy efficient, but current policies are not bringing about the necessary rates of change to do this, even for relatively basic measures such as installing loft insulation[1].

Looking to the future, there are also huge technical challenges associated with moving towards genuinely low-carbon systems of heating. The majority of homes in the UK are gas-heated, but this must change if we are to genuinely bring down emissions. Options to do this include the electrification of home heating, the use of heat pumps, and potentially hydrogen gas being included in the existing gas network.

The CAST Centre recognises that the reform of home heating is more than a technical challenge. It is vital that households are effectively informed and involved in the move towards more energy-efficient homes, or this will be unlikely to happen at the speed and scale necessary. This was demonstrated in stark terms by the failure of the government’s ‘Green New Deal’, launched in 2013, which reached only a tiny fraction of the number of households that were expected to sign up to this programme. One of the reasons for this was that the policy focussed too narrowly on financial considerations, and did not take account of people’s wider needs and aspirations in terms of their comfort, wellbeing and health.[2]

Our research will consider ways in which households can be better engaged with the necessary changes towards low-carbon heating and cooling of homes. This includes understanding people’s views about how this can best be achieved in the coming years, as well as testing communication approaches to better engage people.

As well as considering the climate change implications of domestic heating in the UK, we will also consider the different contexts in this sector in other parts of the world. For example, rising temperatures are expected to lead to greater demands for air conditioning – and so higher energy demand – in Brazil in the coming years[3].

[1] UK Committee on Climate Change (2018). Reducing UK emissions: 2018 Progress Report to Parliament.

[2] Rosenow, J., & Eyre, N. (2016). A post mortem of the Green Deal: Austerity, energy efficiency, and failure in British energy policy. Energy Research & Social Science21, 141-144.

[3] Invidiata, A., & Ghisi, E. (2016). Impact of climate change on heating and cooling energy demand in houses in Brazil. Energy and Buildings130, 20-32.

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