Washing your hands before cooking

4th Dec 2017

 

I guess by now you’ll have an idea about why gas (low carbon of course) has a long term role to play in heating our homes; meeting both seasonal and daily peak demands on both supply of energy (and how we generate it) and our ability to distribute it. Little so far has been said two other demands on domestic energy, both of which impact directly on consumer behaviour and are therefore difficult to change – hot water to wash with and cooking.

Now the all-electric fundamentalists will no doubt cry out and say both can be delivered with electric and do not require gas. That’s true, in theory, but I’m more interested in the practice. Most things can be done in theory, it’s the practice that’s difficult.

Over half of the UK uses gas for cooking; and far more produce hot water from gas boilers. The bigger problem is not just switching the fuel type, it is when that energy demand is required. Increasing peak demand is the worst scenario facing those involved in distributing energy. I can hear the fundamentalists crying out again, but what about storage?

True, hot water can be stored. And yes, it can benefit from cheap energy available off-peak. For many homes this would be a sensible way forward. But to make this a reality, we have to make sure hot water storage is built in. Most new homes built don’t have the space to accommodate a cylinder, they should do. That way, real choice can be exercised by the consumer. They can use gas or electric depending upon their preference and the house is future-proof for any policy change.

Cooking poses a different challenge. Certainly we can cook using electric hobs and ovens, but wholesale switching from gas will mean more than doubling peak electric demands that need to be met, all at set times. Again I hear the fundamentalists scream out, let’s get consumers to change the time they have their meals!

This is the point when it is time to take stock and for the fundamentalists to accept the reality, gas offers the flexibility (and affordability) to serve customers’ needs. We should not be telling them when to wash their hands and cook their meals.