As the Government outlines plans to get the UK to net-zero carbon emissions over the next thirty years, it reaffirms the need for society, industry, and government to work in unison to be successful. The government has set out a broad framework which is helpful, although more detail will clearly be needed. But it has set a commitment.
According to data from BEIS, Britain’s homes account for up to 40% of the country’s emissions - when you include household waste, travel, consumption, and energy use. That’s a pretty big portion of the target and is why Shell Energy is focused on helping households get their energy usage to net-zero.
Getting there needs to be in partnership with the homeowner. We must make lower-carbon options easy, affordable, low-hassle, and not ask people to sacrifice comfort over the environment. For instance, asking people to take a low carbon heating system that won’t keep the house warm enough is a path to failure.
There are two main challenges in the home. The first is harnessing renewable power. We already offer 100% renewable electricity as standard and Shell is involved in other activities to support more renewable generation, such as agreeing on a long-term contract to buy power from the world’s largest offshore wind farm at Dogger Bank. The second is using that renewable electricity to power things that would otherwise burn hydrocarbons through electrification - Electric Vehicles being a prime example.
"We must make lower-carbon options easy, affordable, low-hassle, and not ask people to sacrifice comfort over the environment "
The second main challenge for decarbonising the home is tackling heat. The overwhelming majority of homes in Britain rely on Gas or Oil for heating. From 2025, all-new build homes will have to rely on non-fossil fuel heating, but it still leaves more than 27 million homes that need retrofitting. Electrification can help some, such as a move to heat pumps, and hydrogen is a potential replacement for gas in some areas although still in early stages. The reality is we’ll need multiple options to get us to net-zero. These changes can be expensive and disruptive, so the challenge for the industry - not just energy suppliers, but all companies in the supply chain - is how to persuade customers to make the switch. Again, value, simplicity, and articulating tangible individual benefits will be crucial.
Electrifying heat and EV charging will lead to increased demand for electricity. This need not overwhelm the system so long as we have clever devices and platform-agnostic solutions that are interoperable across the industry, for home and communities alike.
They need to be able to maximise the change in supply variability from renewable energy sources, as well as being able to reliably predict customer demand. Vehicle to Grid charging, home batteries, local generation, and community level peer-to-peer energy trading can all play a significant role in balancing a more dynamic, flexible, and intermittent grid. The challenge is packaging this up for customers in a simple, reliable, and affordable way.
All of this means that the next three decades are going to need creativity, innovation, and a keen eye on user experience. The role of technology in facilitating this is critical. But it can also unlock new opportunities. An intelligent grid, connected homes, and dynamic appliances can bring opportunities for new services that deliver customer benefits. The companies that can capitalise on this as a way of facilitating the transition to cleaner energy will be well placed to succeed.