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Forward to the future

There was much to debate at i-STUTE’S briefing earlier this month, not least the future of the cooling industry and how it could assist in meeting carbon reduction targets

Funded by Research Councils UK, i-STUTE’s (Interdisciplinary Centre for Storage, Transformation and Upgrading of Thermal Energy) main aim is “addressing the technology, business and infrastructure challenges needed to provide sustainable cooling and heating to 2020 and beyond”.

To raise awareness of its mission, it held a briefing in London to talk about its issues and goals. Attended by government and industry representatives, the event brought together the organisation’s management committee, which includes IoR president Graeme Maidment.

Opening the event was CIBSE technical director Dr Hywel Davies, who chairs i-STUTE’S management committee.

Dr Davies said: “The major aim of the project is to progress our knowledge and understanding of low-carbon technologies and how they can be applied through integration and innovation of heating and cooling solutions.

“Furthermore, we will be looking at new business models. We will be asking whether we’re able to sell these new products. Consumer behaviour can be far from predictable. We have to try and understand it so we can match needs and demands. We may have a certain outlook as engineers regarding how a product should be, but that may not be how the consumer sees it.”

Dr Davies pointed out forthcoming energy challenges, including the need to meet carbon reduction targets and for the UK to be less dependent on energy imports.

“There is also the issue of where we focus our energies. Even if we start building carbon-zero buildings now, it will have a small impact on emissions. So we have to start with the existing stock. The built environment accounts for 46 per cent of total emissions, so reducing emissions from new-build by 40
per cent reduces UK emissions by 0.185 of the UK total, based on accounting for 1 per cent of the stock each year.

“We have about 24 million homes in the UK, so if we build 200,000 homes a year it will take 120 years to replace the existing stock. We demolish around 20,000 homes a year – 1,200 years to demolish existing stock.

“So i-STUTE is here to look at ways to deliver those 24m refurbishments to heat and cool our homes, shops and workplaces in lower-energy and lower-carbon ways.”

Tough targets

Next to speak was Greg Gebrail, senior engineer at DECC.

“The UK has set some challenging targets; in fact it aims to have an 80 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and a 34 per cent reduction by 2020. This means that buildings will have to be virtually zero-carbon by 2050.

“And as if this wasn’t difficult enough, we also need to adhere to the EU’s energy targets, which state the UK will have a 15 per cent increase in renewable energy use by 2020. Renewable heat could contribute; approximately 12 per cent of our total heat demand would have to come from renewables.”

Mr Gebrail said that industrial heat accounts for 73 per cent of demand and that some industrial sectors emit carbon from the manufacturing process itself, identifying the manufacture of cement, which produces CO2 during the chemical reaction process. “So even if you take the heat out, you’ll still emissions,” he said.

Mr Gebrail added: “Our team is currently in the process of developing a low-carbon road map for each key industrial sector. There will also be a techno-economic study on industrial CCS to help better understand the necessary technologies and costs. And this will also be joined by a techno-economic study on the amount of recoverable heat available from UK heat-intensive industry to inform the 2014 RHI policy review.”

On the subject of heat networks, Mr Gebrail stated that there are 2,000, which serve 210,000 dwellings, together with 1,700 commercial and public buildings.

“These could allow us to benefit from many sources of heat, such as geothermal, large heat pumps and waste and industrial heat. They could also be cheaper than electrically driven options.

“To help facilitate the take-up of this technology, DECC has established a group called the Heat Networks Delivery Unit. It has a fund of £6m and so far it’s been a success. Early in January, 27 local authorities received £1.9m while March saw 24 receive £2.1m.

“We can’t ignore the cooling industry. In DECC there’s an exercise to assess the current state of the cooling arena and what further projects might be done in the cooling space. We are aware of the issues within the cooling industry – whether they are skills, installers or service engineers – and the aim is to focus on what can be done to address these in a positive way.”

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