Gas boilers fuel millions of homes. But what can replace them in a greener future?

On the similar time, stress is mounting on world leaders forward of the COP26 worldwide local weather talks to quickly cut back the usage of fossil fuels, together with pure fuel. The fuel scarcity and sense of urgency across the local weather disaster have raised an necessary query: Is there a greater option to warmth our houses?

This is what you want to know.

Rooftop photo voltaic panels: These are notably good for heating water. With the appropriate assist, residents can retailer vitality themselves and promote unused energy again to the nationwide electrical energy grid, however subsidies and incentives range throughout nations whereas upfront prices could be increased than for standard water heating programs. Globally, home solar energy met solely 2.1% of space and water heat demand in 2018, in keeping with the Worldwide Power Company (IEA).
Biden announces global goal to reduce planet-warming methane emissions

Inexperienced hydrogen: This gasoline has additionally been touted as a clear various since it may be derived from sources like water, quite than fossil fuels, and is produced with renewable vitality. However the gasoline continues to be in improvement section, and a few specialists say that utilizing photo voltaic or wind vitality to provide one other gasoline proper now could be a waste of valuable renewables. Inexperienced hydrogen is broadly seen as acceptable for heavy business and huge automobiles, like planes and ships.

Warmth pumps: There have gotten a well-liked various. There are two predominant varieties — air supply warmth pumps, which extract warmth from the air, and floor supply warmth pumps, which extract warmth from the bottom — and each work basically just like the reverse of a fridge.

Between 2007 and the top of 2020, almost 15 million warmth pump items had been put in throughout the 21 nations in Europe for which it has knowledge, the European Warmth Pump Affiliation (EHPA) said. Of these, 1.6 million had been put in final yr, with Germany, France and Italy accounting for almost half of these gross sales.
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The UK is lagging behind, nevertheless, in keeping with evaluation of the newest knowledge from the EHPA by environmental marketing campaign group Greenpeace, released earlier this month. Final yr, the UK put in greater than 5 occasions fewer warmth pumps than Lithuania, greater than 30 occasions fewer than Estonia and 60 occasions fewer warmth pumps than Norway, the Greenpeace evaluation confirmed.

“If the federal government needs an opportunity to catch up, it wants a correct technique and sufficient money to scrub up our houses on a large scale. This implies substantial grants for warmth pump installations, particularly for the poorest households, eradicating VAT on inexperienced house applied sciences and a section out of fuel boilers early subsequent decade,” stated Greenpeace UK’s coverage director, Doug Parr.

The UK authorities is because of set out its plans to chop carbon emissions from houses in a coverage paper within the coming weeks, forward of the COP26 summit.

The US is transferring rapidly to put in warmth pumps in new houses. According to the IEA, the share of warmth pump gross sales for brand spanking new buildings exceeds 40% for single-family dwellings and is close to 50% for brand spanking new multi-family buildings. Floor supply warmth pumps are extra widespread within the US than anyplace else — accounting for greater than half the 400,000 bought yearly — with gross sales boosted by a 30% federal tax credit score in previous years, the IEA stated.
Worldwide, almost 20 million households bought warmth pumps in 2019, up from 14 million in 2010, according to the IEA. Most of this development is from increased gross sales of reversible items that may additionally present air con, it stated, reflecting an elevated want for cooling as effectively.

Regardless of this development, warmth pumps nonetheless meet lower than 5% of worldwide heating wants in buildings, the IEA stated.

An air source heat pump unit is installed at a 1930s-built house in Folkestone, England, on September 20, 2021.

Gasoline is getting costly, however is it worsening the local weather disaster?

Whereas some nations, just like the UK, have a good time their phase-out of coal, they’re utilizing extra fuel — however pure fuel is not precisely a low-emissions gasoline both.

Majority of remaining fossil fuels must stay in the ground to limit climate crisis below critical threshold, study shows
It’s extra environment friendly than coal and emits much less carbon dioxide when burned, nevertheless it’s made largely of methane, a dangerous greenhouse fuel that may leak into the ambiance from fuel pipelines and deserted wells and trigger vital warming. The UN climate change report printed in August emphasised the pressing want to manage methane emissions.
Final yr, the European Union and United Kingdom used extra renewable vitality than fossil fuels to generate electrical energy. However on the similar time, the USA and United Kingdom both rely on gas for around 40% of their electrical energy.
The European Union is rather less reliant. Pure fuel accounts for 32% of the 27-country bloc’s vitality consumption in households, greater than fossil fuel-powered electrical energy (25%), renewables (20%) and petroleum merchandise (12%), in keeping with 2019 EU figures. However it’s increasing and investing closely in fuel.

One subject affecting the urgency with which individuals view the necessity to change away from pure fuel could also be so simple as its identify.

Analysis by the Yale Program on Local weather Change Communication, published this month, discovered that calling it “pure” fuel influenced public notion. Whereas emotions about “pure fuel” had been constructive among the many 2,931 American adults surveyed, emotions about “pure methane fuel” had been impartial, and emotions about “methane fuel” and “methane” had been unfavourable.

“The findings recommend that local weather communicators ought to describe pure fuel utilizing the phrases “methane fuel” or “methane,” which is the primary part of this vitality supply,” the researchers concluded.

Gas boilers provide heating and hot water to millions of homes around the world.

The IEA has stated that no new fossil gasoline boilers must be bought globally from 2025 if the world is to attain net-zero greenhouse fuel emissions by 2050, the place the quantity of emissions is just not better than these faraway from the ambiance.

Below its roadmap for the vitality sector, printed in Might, gross sales of fuel boilers ought to fall by greater than 40% from present ranges by 2030 and by 90% by 2050.

That is going to require an enormous transformation. As many nations wean themselves off coal — which is usually the most important emitter of all broadly used fossil fuels — they’re switching to pure fuel as a “bridging gasoline” in the course of the transition to renewables enjoying an even bigger position within the vitality combine.

Greater than 80% of UK households are related to mains fuel and about half within the US use natural gas for house and water heating.

Why are these options so laborious to entry?

Individuals do not essentially have that a lot energy over the vitality sources for his or her houses, except they’re pretty rich. This additionally is determined by the place you reside — some nations have carried out greater than others to assist households transfer away from fuel.

Additionally, in case you’re in a block of flats, as many individuals are, you will have even much less of a say.

Europe is paying record prices for energy. A winter crisis looms

The UK authorities has stated it plans to ban fuel boilers in new-build houses from 2025, with low-carbon heating programs to be put in of their place. It additionally intends to cease the sale of latest fuel boilers from 2035.

However warmth pumps stay costly and their set up usually additionally requires broader modifications contained in the property, stated Katherine Ellsworth-Krebs, senior analysis affiliate in sustainability on the UK’s Lancaster College. In addition to changing their particular person fuel boilers, folks may have to put in larger radiators and underfloor heating to make sure their houses are heat sufficient.

Floor supply warmth pumps require area to both bury a pipe in a loop beneath a backyard or dig a deep borehole. That is not all the time life like in city areas, the place air supply warmth pumps — which look a bit like air con items — are a greater possibility. “They do not require as a lot area, however they don’t seem to be as environment friendly,” Ellsworth-Krebs instructed CNN.

The nation’s many older, draftier houses additionally current an impediment, she stated, since warmth pumps produce a decrease, fixed type of heating that works finest with a decent constructing material.

The UK authorities has been accused of flip-flopping on its insurance policies on photo voltaic panels and warmth pumps, with rebates which have been launched after which withdrawn. Its flagship “Inexperienced Houses Grant” — which was supposed to assist lots of of 1000’s of households enhance their insulation and set up low-carbon heating resembling warmth pumps — was scrapped in March after simply six months.

A view of Denmark's Avedore Power Station, which provides district heating to the Copenhagen metropolitan area.
The EU has set out ambitious plans in its Inexperienced Deal to assist it meet a goal of slicing greenhouse fuel emissions by not less than 55% by 2030, in comparison with 1990 ranges. However reliance on fossil fuels varies broadly throughout its 27 member states and a few, notably the much less rich nations, could discover it tougher to transition their populations away from them for house heating and to renovate outdated constructing inventory.
Ellsworth-Krebs believes the answer could possibly be present in localized choices, resembling district heating systems, quite than counting on particular person households to make the shift in the direction of decrease carbon options. District heating programs work by distributing warmth from burning waste or from geothermal exercise, for instance, by way of insulated pipes to houses throughout a metropolis or group.

“I feel it should not be on you as a home-owner, or a landlord, to be making numerous these large investments,” she stated.

CNN’s Angela Dewan contributed to this report. | Gasoline boilers gasoline thousands and thousands of houses. However what can substitute them in a greener future?

Aila Slisco

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