This year has seen an increasing number of announcements outlining commitment to achieve sustainability targets, including examples such as Heathrow Airport that is already celebrating carbon neutral status after making a £100m+ investment in energy management and use of renewable energy.
While this is encouraging news for the environment and provides examples of what’s needed to achieve the government’s net zero carbon aims by 2050, there are many questions to answer on which methods of heating and cooling that the UK needs to adopt and which renewable or zero carbon technologies will be included to achieve this.
We need a higher level of engagement all round
Needed now not in the future
We’ve seen more investment in hydrogen production facilities, for example, but these will have to increase dramatically to support any wholesale change, of course, and be further supported by large-scale retraining schemes to allow engineers and installers to gain the necessary skills to ensure that new systems are designed and installed to the correct standards.
One of the issues seen to be holding back the use of renewable energy has been the cost of equipment, which has remained at a high level when compared with more traditional gas boilers, etc.
Even the considerable reductions in price seen for solar PV panels has not resulted in much more than steady growth since the removal of the Feed-in Tariff, and no doubt this is not helped when renewables are regarded as “green bling” by some.
Looking at the picture from an alternative angle, however, I’ve heard how difficult it is to get an accurate projection of the energy output required by facilities of all description, making the task of designing new systems problematic and which frequently leads to these being incorrectly specified, with the potential to see all the issues emerge which have contributed to some technologies being poorly regarded.
Everyone will also need much-improved support from the government, of course, including carefully considered and long-term incentives, higher standards of training and crystal clear directives to avoid any confusion in how to access and engage with these, all of which are then ‘cast in stone’ to avoid future meddling or impact from changes of administration in the future.
Effectively, we need to see a much higher level of engagement from all sides if the UK is to achieve its net zero carbon emissions, but considering the incentives and risks of continuing as we are, it’s in everyone’s interest to engage with all of the above and will be greatly assisted by clear and effective leadership from government and high levels of support from industry bodies.
Dennis Flower is editor of PFM Magazine