Meeting Britain’s 2050 climate goals will require the nation to wean itself off using natural gas for heating, but the nation’s electricity system probably won’t cope unless thermal storage technology improves.
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the heating sector is “one of the toughest challenges the country faces in its low-carbon transition,” according to a report published Friday by the U.K. Energy Research Centre, a body that advises the public and private sector on sustainable energy.
The U.K. is heavily dependent on gas with the fuel meeting about two thirds of domestic energy demand. When the weather’s cold, the gas system handles a morning surge in demand by drawing on fuel stored in pipelines overnight. Right now, the electricity system can’t do the same because there’s no large-scale options to store power or heat.
Transferring demand for heating from the gas network to the electricity system would be a “significant challenge” in cold weather, UKERC said in the report published Friday.
UKERC analysis of local gas demand during coldest days of winter 2017-18 shows a very fast ramp up in demand from 5 a.m. until 8 a.m when heating consumption surged by more than 100 gigawatts. That happened on 25 percent of days during the heating season last winter.
Meeting that demand would be a huge leap for the power system, where peak supply only reached 53 gigawatts last winter.
Reducing the demand for heating by energy efficiency measures would help ease the load on the power system, UKERC said. Insulation in new buildings and retrofitting older properties would help cut consumption.
Thermal storage will need to play a much greater role in future to help smooth the sharp increase in demand, it said in the report.
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