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19 Aug 2022

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Zero Emissions Heating: The Wave of the Future

Scottish Government researchers studied the impact of various low-carbon technologies, including biomass boilers, heat pumps, hydrogen, and heat networks.

According to an in-depth assessment by the Scottish Government, many green technologies—such as carbon capture and storage equipment, combined heat and power systems, and solar photovoltaic panels—have produced zero greenhouse gas emissions during operation or installation.

The research was conducted by ACE Research and the Energy Savings Trust. The Investigation was designed to find which heat-generating systems do not produce greenhouse gases when used. ACE found all these technologies, such as direct electric heaters, electric storage heaters, electric boilers, solar thermal technologies, heat pumps, heat networks, and fuel cells, to produce zero greenhouse gases.

The company also explored the climate impact of using biomass and hydrogen boilers for home heating and found that though these technologies produce emissions at the site, their overall climate impact remains lower than conventional fossil fuel gas boilers.

The Scottish Government's ClimateXChange unit commissioned the report to assess the direct, in-building emissions caused by low and zero carbon heating technologies. In addition, the results of this research are intended to inform future building regulations about the various possibilities of emission-free heating methods.

According to researchers, the project was crucial to define zero direct emissions heating technologies and show how they can contribute to Scotland's statutory goal of achieving net zero emissions across its economy by 2045.

The study aimed to explain approaches to net-zero buildings by looking at recommended technologies for space and water heating within the building grounds, which they have defined as greenhouse gases generated by heating systems at the point of use, that is, within the total grounds of the building.

A lack of comprehensive data is also highlighted in the report for accurately calculating potential emissions savings from hydrogen combustion heating, such as hydrogen gas boilers. However, the report pointed out that hydrogen was associated with significantly lower emissions than fossil fuel gas boilers, as with biomass.

"The UK and Scotland specifically have already made brilliant progress in decarbonizing electricity supplies, but now we urgently need to tackle decarbonization of our heat," he said. "While the amount of carbon dioxide emissions generated by different fossil fuel combustion systems are relatively widely understood, less research has been conducted into the impacts of installing, operating, and decommissioning heating systems, including those considered low or zero carbon.

"This research aims to fill that knowledge gap and help guide the legislation that is so critically needed to encourage the rapid development of truly low carbon heating solutions, such as the system of heat networks that will need to be quickly deployed to decarbonize the UK's towns and cities by 2050." Said Kieran Sinclair, the heat policy manager at the Association for Decentralised Energy (ADE).

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