“Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes”

19th Feb 2018


Or to fellow non-Latin speakers, “beware Greeks bearing gifts” could apply to the latest report from the Electric Systems Catapult, oops, slip of the keyboard, I meant Energy Systems Catapult. Their publication with the Energy Technologies Institute, entitled “How can people get the heat they want at home, without the gas” – sorry, error again, “without the carbon”.

But you could be mistaken if you did think the report was all about electric replacing gas, because frankly, that’s what it implies, starting with the statement “decarbonising heat means supplying homes with something other than natural gas”. That might appear uncontroversial, and the gas industry is working hard to explore alternatives to natural gas – namely biomethane, bioSNG and hydrogen. But the ESC/ETI report fails to mention low carbon gas. Under the guise of “smart homes” they offer heat services, delivering low carbon energy services that deliver local heating solutions.

To be fair to the report, it does highlight how difficult it is to disrupt the current heating model – my question is why do they want to? The report does offer up a challenge for those involved in the heating industry. It claims two-thirds of households face the problem of draughts, damp, mould or overheating. Now these are problems associated with the fabric of the building and quality of the build. Yes they need to be addressed – starting obviously with new build homes. But offering an all-electric solution (dressed up as low carbon in the eyes of ESC) isn’t the solution.

The report, conveniently, suggests that “only” a third of households worry about paying energy bills. It claims many are surprised to find it costs more to heat their home on a cold day and that the highest and lowest consumers of “gas” do not know if they use more or less than average.

Smart technology obviously can help inform consumers and give them better control over their usage. If this is the conclusion of the report, well it is a welcome gift to the sector. If it is an excuse to promote electric over low carbon gas, beware that smart wooden horse.