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Race for heat decarbonisation would spur UK’s green economic recovery

Press release

A new industry coalition report that explores the scale of infrastructure change needed to achieve net-zero heat also highlights the tremendous opportunities it offers.

Written by a group of forward-thinking UK businesses and public sector organisations, The Path To Zero Carbon Heat report provides pathways for decarbonising the heating of Britain’s homes and workplaces by 2050, which currently accounts for around 20% of the UK’s carbon emissions.

The decarbonisation of Britain’s infrastructure could lead to the growth of completely new industries, the report suggests, offering large scale employment, economic growth and levelling up of the UK, with significant export opportunities.

The report received input from a group of University of Leeds researchers led by Dr Fleur Loveridge, University Academic Fellow in the School of Civil Engineering.

The Net-Zero Infrastructure Industry Coalition, which produced the report, involves a variety of members including Mott MacDonald, Anglian Water, Transport for London, Leeds City Council and Engie.

While the task ahead is huge, there are credible routes for reaching net-zero emissions for heating in the UK

Dr Fleur Loveridge

The report outlines three possible pathways for achieving the goal of zero carbon heat: one that focuses on electrification, one that relies on the widespread use of hydrogen, and a hybrid path which is a combination of the two.

For each pathway, the report outlines what the UK needs to do – and by when – if it is to meet its commitment to net-zero. In particular, it highlights the need for government to make early decisions about the paths to take and set supporting regulation.

Dr Loveridge, a member of the Priestley International Centre for Climate at Leeds, said: “Our research, included in this important new report, shows that while the task ahead is huge, there are credible routes for reaching net-zero emissions for heating in the UK.

“However, we must act now to make these essential changes to our buildings and infrastructure.”

Priestley Climate Scholar Josh Turner was heavily involved in producing the report alongside his PhD research in the School of Civil Engineering. He said: “This report highlights the tremendous scale of the infrastructure challenge that we currently face to decarbonise heat.

“Our hope is that this will help inform the government’s strategy for the sector, leading to an increase in ambition and accelerated development. It is clear from the roadmaps set out that there is very little time to waste if we are to achieve net zero by 2050”

Construction worker installing new heating system

Construction worker installs new heating system. Credit: Marcela Gara, Resource Media

The new report was led by Mott MacDonald with support from Energy Systems Catapult, Engie, Leeds City Council, National Grid, Pinsent Masons, Delta-EE, University of Leeds, the UK Collaboratorium for Research on Infrastructure and Cities and the UK Green Buildings Council.

Ross Ramsay, project manager for the Net-Zero Infrastructure Industry Coalition, said: “The technology, skills and know-how to decarbonise heat will be in demand globally.

“This scale of investment in decarbonising the heating of over 25 million UK homes, plus non-domestic buildings, will create new industries, jobs and apprenticeships at scale, and place Britain at the forefront of the race to Net Zero, giving scalable export opportunities.”

The report is the first output from the Net-Zero Infrastructure Industry Coalition, which was formed in 2019 to guide practical action on the Committee of Climate Change’s recommendations to government. The coalition brings together organisations from across the infrastructure industry that are committed to playing active parts in achieving net-zero.

Download the report here.