Heat pumps central to London’s net zero goal

Heat pumps will have a critical role in tackling emissions from London’s buildings and delivering on the Mayor’s 2030 net zero goal, a report has found.

On 27 August, The Carbon Trust published Heat pump retrofit in London – commissioned by the Mayor – which cited decarbonising heat as the biggest decarbonisation challenge facing the capital. Natural gas accounts for 37% of its greenhouse gas emissions, meaning a rapid transition to low carbon heat solutions is required. The majority of these will have to be retrofitted into existing buildings, with at least 80% of London’s buildings set to still be standing in 2050.

Heat pumps were identified as the primary technology to help London face this challenge, with the report noting they can deliver CO2 savings of 60-70% compared to conventional electric heating, and 55-65% when compared to an efficient gas boiler. As the grid continues to decarbonise, these savings are expected to increase to 90-100% by 2050. However, they should not be viewed as a “like-for-like” replacement, with the report noting good practice system design and improved energy efficiency in buildings are both essential to deliver a heat pump retrofit at scale. It called on the government to provide decisive regulatory and fiscal framework to support this at the scale needed, making a series of recommendations.

Its action plan calls for a rapid escalation in investment in thermal energy efficiency in buildings, a reduction in the upfront capital cost of heat pumps paid by building owners, and rebalancing gas and electricity energy taxation to incentivise low carbon heating. It also recommended maximising financial rewards for the flexibility of heat demand, and catalysing the deployment of heat pumps in building types where they already have a strong financial case.

The Carbon Trust