Tackling the UK's low carbon heating challenge: Birmingham professor chairs CBI panel discussion

Professor Martin Freer speaking about the challenge of delivering low carbon heating
Professor Martin Freer speaking about the challenge of delivering low carbon heating

On 14th of June 2021, Professor Martin Freer, Director of the Birmingham Energy Institute hosted a Confederation of British Industry (CBI) panel discussion on how to tackle climate change by decarbonising the UK’s heating system.

The panel discussion, titled ‘How do we tackle the UK’s low carbon heating challenge?’, featured contributions from Lord Karan Bilimoria CBE, DL, President of the CBI; Daniel Newport, Deputy Director and Head of Heat and Buildings Strategy, Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy; Michael Lewis, CEO of the energy company E.ON UK; and Charlotte Large, Strategy, Policy & Innovation Director of the low carbon energy and services company Engie.

Professor Freer identified the decarbonisation of heat as perhaps the major climate change challenge, noting that heating accounts for 40% of energy utilisation in the UK, a third of our carbon emissions.

Lord Bilimoria from the CBI urged the UK to achieve decarbonisation over the next decade through investment in an ambitious economic strategy economic strategy, as set out in the CBI’s recent ‘Seize the Moment’ strategy for transforming the UK’s economy. The report states that £700bn could be added to our GDP; with one of the six pillars of the strategy being climate change (environment / biodiversity).

Daniel Newport from BEIS recognised the scale of the challenge involved in decarbonisation. He identified a clear need over the next 10 – 15 years to build markets for low-carbon heating that can replace today’s markets for fossil-fuel only heating systems.

Michael Lewis from EON identified the upfront cost of upgrading heating systems as a major challenge to be overcome. He favoured utilising the mortgage system to allow homeowners to finance investment in new heating systems.

Charlotte Large from Engie spoke about how her company was already working with businesses and local authorities to develop low-carbon road maps to help them meet carbon compliance targets and strategic ambitions. She identified opportunities for Government, local authorities, regional actors, and industry to work together to deliver solutions in the 2020s.

The panel discussion formed part of the CBI’s Road to Net-Zero conference series and Lord Bilimoria concluded by emphasising the urgent need for a National Delivery Body for heat and for the Government to support the development of the National Centre for Decarbonisation of Heat at Tyseley Energy Park in Birmingham.

The Birmingham Energy Institute is developing and applying the technological innovation, original thinking and new ways of working required to create sustainable energy solutions and support the regional, national, and global transition to a zero-carbon energy system.

The CBI is the UK’s most effective and influential business organisation. The organisation speaks on behalf of 190,000 businesses. Together they employ nearly 7 million people, about one-third of the private sector-employed workforce.

You can watch a recording of the full panel discussion by following the link below:

YouTube video - CBI Conference Series: Road to Net-zero - Low carbon heating - 14 June 2021

Professor Martin Freer on the challenge of decarbonising the UK's heating system