Last week the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) published its long-awaited strategy paper for reducing carbon emissions arising from heating, cooling and energy use in buildings across the UK. So what can we take away from it?

  • Heat pumps are the way forward. New natural gas boilers will be phased out from 2035 once costs of low carbon alternatives have come down, which the government will work with the heat pump industry to achieve. Incentives will be introduced for early adopters and investment will be made into further R&D to advance heat electrification.
  • Major strategic decisions will be taken on the role of hydrogen for heat by 2026. Large scale 100% hydrogen heating trials will be undertaken to test and evaluate the potential of hydrogen as an option for heating our homes and workplaces. 
  • For rented commercial buildings in England & Wales, we are looking at minimum energy efficiency standards of EPC C by 2027 and EPC B by 2030. The government is also considering whether similar minimum standards should be imposed for social housing and owner-occupied commercial buildings - expect consultations on both of these by the end of the year.  
  • We are also promised the introduction of a "new and innovative performance-based energy rating" for large commercial and industrial buildings of over 1,000 m sq, although there are no indications of a more widespread switch to an in-use energy rating system, as favoured by many energy efficiency experts. 
  • With many sectors looking to decarbonise through electrification, the importance of having a smart, flexible and secure electricity network is paramount. Whilst the strategy paper confirms that the government has been engaging with distribution network operators to understand the potential scale  of reinforcements required to accommodate increasing demand from the electrification of heat and transport, no specific commitment to investment in improving infrastructure is made. 

BEIS has been criticised for the failure to include any reference to embodied carbon in the paper as well as the funding commitments made having been described as insufficient.  With a number of further government consultations already promised, as well as the need for regulation to be passed to turn statements of strategic intent into action, it is clear that the paper is only a small step on the road to Net Zero.