Exploring the technological potential for improving energy efficiency of residential space heating in the UK by 2050

University essay from KTH/Industriell ekologi

Abstract: The UK has pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050, compared to 1990 levels. With the residential sector accounting for roughly a quarter of the UK's total carbon emissions, and with space heating accounting for roughly two thirds of residential energy consumption, addressing heating demand will prove instrumental for the UK to reach its targets. The large-scale deployment of low-carbon heating technologies, combined with signicant improvements in energy efficiency, is seen as the primary way of reducing both energy demandand carbon emissions. In this thesis, the technical potential for energy efficiency improvements in the UK's residential space heating sector is explored. Three areas of improvement are identied: the thermal performance of the building envelope, the efficiency of heating equipment, and the use of smartheating devices. In all three areas, signicant potential exists to further reduce energy demand for space heating, and the associated carbon emissions. To understand the effects of different technology adoption patterns on energy demand for spaceheating by 2050, a selectively disaggregated bottom-up model of the UK's building stock is developed. The model projects energy demand for space heating for four different technologyadoption scenarios, based on projections of future total heated oor area. In the `Minimal effort' scenario, which assumes that the least possible amount of effort is made to improve the effciency of the space heating sector, energy demand by 2050 increases slightly, by 4.3 %. In this scenario, the achieved minor effciency improvements are not able to offset the increase in the total heated oor area, leading to this small increase in space heating energydemand. In the `Efficiency focus' scenario, which assumes that signicant effort is made to improve the efficiency of the space heating sector, energy demand by 2050 decreases by 34.5 %. Despite these signicant efficiency improvements, fossil fuels still make up roughly three quarters of the fuel mix, as no major shift to cleaner energy sources has been achieved. In contrast, in the `Renewables focus' scenario, which focuses on shifting towards renewable heating options, energy demand decreases slightly less, by only 32 %, but fossil fuels make up only around 46% of the fuel mix, due to the uptake of low-carbon options such as heat pumps, district heat, and biomass. The analysis carried out in this thesis shows that the UK's residential sector consists of manyold and inefficient buildings, still heavily relies on fossil fuel-fired heating equipment, and makes nearly no use of smart heating devices to further reduce energy demand for space heating. Clearly, the technical potential for achieving energy eficiency improvements is signicant, in all three of the identified improvement areas. However, achieving the targets set forth by policymakers will require strong efforts, given the relatively bad current condition of the residential space heating sector. Existing barriers to achieving these improvements should be identifiedand addressed immediately, to ensure timely efforts are possible.

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