The head of Ofgem has admitted he is “nervous” about the role of heating as the UK tries to meet its climate change obligations.
The regulator’s chief executive, Dermot Nolan, said he is relatively sanguine about decarbonising transport and the power grid, but the UK will have a tougher time with its largely gas-powered heating infrastructure.
“I think the main challenge is heat from the UK regulatory perspective,” Nolan told the Aurora Spring Forum in Oxford today.
He said one of the main perceived options for decarbonising the gas network, hydrogen, “would be great, but doesn’t really exist at the moment” and warned that it would need “huge changes” to implement.
“Given that people had some reluctance to smart meters, to be told that we have to put a whole new system in their house, a new boiler, we have concern the of how consumer might react to that,” Nolan said.
Currently more than 80 per cent of British homes get their heating from the gas grid, which overwhelmingly supplies natural gas, a fossil fuel.
However, Nolan said he was relatively positive about the ability of human ingenuity to solve the problems.
He said that a promise by the government to ban fossil fuel heating, such as gas boilers, in new homes from 2025 is an “important signal”, but said the number of new homes being built makes this “a second-order area”.
“By itself its not going to have a huge effect, but it’s an important signal,” Nolan said, but declined to comment on whether he thought the policy is good or bad.