By Ovie Frederick-Simon, sustainability and net-zero officer at Sunamp | July 2022
Events like the United Kingdom’s NetZero Week national awareness campaign are intended to encourage reflection about what it means to attain a net-zero system as strategies and policies are developed and put in place to limit and eliminate the UK’s contributions to climate change.
But let’s start at the beginning and explore why such an awareness week is necessary.
The net-zero concept as a climate policy has grown in popularity since COP26, the UN Climate Change Conference held in Glasgow in November 2021. This is due to its necessity for saving millions of lives globally. And since then, it is no longer a novelty when businesses and countries announce significant net-zero commitments.
In 2019, the UK became the first major economy to pass laws to end its contribution to global warming by 2050. Since then, it has introduced policies to encourage the technological innovations needed for large-scale decarbonisation. However, present UK greenhouse gas (GHG) emission figures show that emissions have increased by 6.3% compared to 2020 (although the same 2021 carbon emission figures are 5% lower than in 2019, which was the most recent pre-pandemic year).
With climate change and net zero perception in mind, the UK government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) polled 6,947 members of the UK public in 2020 to gauge opinion. The findings suggested that 83% of the participants thought climate change was a problem, with about 54% of survey respondents believing that their local environment was already experiencing climate change to some degree. Another survey, this time by the market research firm Ipsos in 2021, found that 7 in 10 British people knew of the net zero concept.
Despite this, the same Ipsos survey also noted that only 20% of the public knows the UK government’s net-zero commitments. This is why awareness events – like June’s NetZero Week – are so important to encourage action by drawing attention to the UK’s current problems and providing information to better help understand them.
An example of a key topic addressed in this year’s NetZero Week was highlighting the difference between net zero and carbon neutral.
- Net zero strives to establish a system in which a company’s value chain activities have no apparent impact on the climate in terms of GHG emissions. This is usually achieved by developing and implementing a carbon reduction plan.
- Carbon neutral involves offsetting emissions released without necessarily looking to reduce them as much as possible in line with science-based target initiatives.
Ovie Frederick-Simon, sustainability and net-zero officer at Sunamp, playing volleyball.
Education can encourage people to change their attitudes and behaviour and is a critical agent in addressing the Issue of Climate Change”
United Nations, 2021
Greenhouse gas emissions from heating homes
In the UK, the residential sector (for which emissions from heating dominate by source total) still accounted for 23% of the UK GHG end-user emissions.
The UK is a relatively cold country, so the need for more warmth in homes and buildings, especially during the winter, cannot be overstated. But unfortunately, this need led to an over-reliance on natural gas, which is not sustainable for achieving net zero commitments or long-term energy security.
What needs to change, and how can thermal storage help deliver net zero?
According to a white paper published by the European Heat Pump Association (EHPA), only 5% of the 29 million homes in the UK had low-carbon heating. This is insufficient to achieve decarbonised heating. Therefore, a drastic transition to technologies that can help deliver on the UK’s net-zero targets is crucial.
This is where thermal storage technology will play a huge role. This advanced technology has attracted increasing interest for its application in space and water heating because it provides an opportunity to close the gap between energy supply and demand and help eliminate fuel poverty.
Importantly, this storage technology can be integrated with renewable energy sources, such as solar, to provide carbon-neutral heating and hot water.
The move to a low-carbon future is well underway.
Energy storage will be a critical enabler of this transition. However, it will require a large-scale adoption through market incentives, public awareness and favourable regulatory policies to support its wide-scale use. Additionally, more funding will be critical to ensure research and development are continually executed to improve the technology and deliver more rapid decarbonisation.