Retrofitting existing building fabric will make the greatest energy efficiency gains over the next three years, according to the Energy Institute.
Institute members believe technology and equipment upgrades also have significant short-term potential, as do controls and smart systems.
However, they place little stock in electric heat pumps, smart appliances or renewable heat in either the near term or the long term.
By 2030, EI members believe new build standards will make the biggest impact on UK energy efficiency.
Those findings were published in the EI’s annual Energy Barometer, based on a survey of members.
“Energy efficiency in buildings can deliver results both in the short and longer term, if government acts now to set a policy framework that drives investor confidence, consumer demand for energy efficiency, and energy use and behaviour change,” said Dr Joanne Wade, chair of the EI’s Energy Advisory Panel, which oversaw the survey and report.
However, when asked what single measure government could take to meet carbon budgets and 2050 emissions targets, energy efficiency was trumped by renewable energy and nuclear energy, as well as policy stability and financial incentives. Meanwhile only 6% of those polled cited demand management and reduction as the key policy approach. In the main, members were unconvinced the UK would meet its approaching carbon budgets and 2050 emissions targets.
While new nuclear is seen by many members as a key pillar of decarbonising power, they believe the sector will suffer from the largest skills shortfall in both the long and mid-term. Skills shortages in energy storage and smart grid sectors will also suffer the next largest gaps, they believe.
Members also singled out energy storage as the technology most in need of innovation, with batteries perceived as potentially the most cost-effective technology at all scales, increasingly so at smaller scales. But investment and cost, limitations of existing technology and current policy and regulation were perceived as barriers to scale. Meanwhile, around 16% of respondents did not see energy storage playing a significant role in the UK energy system by 2030.
Members believe that gas will be the primary fuel source for both heat and power by 2030, and that oil will continue to largely power transport.
In the power sector, nuclear will play the key supporting role, according to the EI, followed by offshore wind.
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Interesting (if seemingly rather pessimistic) stuff! One thing perhaps not able to be easily considered within the report’s question / response survey format is the number of questions that can sensibly be asked and at what technical depth, for example around the scope for the impact of specific combinations of the technologies available, e.g. heat pumps plus thermal storage, or tri-generation plus thermal storage or air liquification etc. As we all appreciate, there is no silver bullet.
As one of the report authors, I agree it’s difficult to dive into great detail, although the survey is quite comprehensive, covering many issues. We are able to build on the results and work with energy professionals from across the sector to explore solutions to some of the challenges identified.
Something Brendan picks up in his article is that energy professionals think the largest sources of heat, transport and electricity in 2030 will be gas, oil and gas respectively. This is in line with many existing scenarios. It implies a (heat) system reliant on gas, which has significant implications for the energy system out to 2050.
We are planning more in-depth follow-up research to help to identify solutions to help decarbonise heat. If this is something you’d be interested in being involved with, please get in touch.