Business is responsible for less than 50% of UK emissions

Source : The Guardian

In “Zero Carbon Our Choice”, I argued that while many people think that achieving zero carbon is the responsibility of government and business, in fact it is impossible without a change to the choices which we as consumers make.

Using the 2018 final statistics as summarised in “2018 UK Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Final figures 4 February 2020 National Statistics” as the basis for this. “In 2018, 28% of net greenhouse gas emissions in the UK were estimated to be from the transport sector, 23% from energy supply, 18% from business, 15% from the residential sector and 10% from agriculture. The rest was attributable to the remaining sectors: waste management, industrial processes, and the public sector. The land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) sector acted as a net sink in 2018 so emissions were effectively negative.”

My argument is that we need to analyse these figures to look at who is responsible for the emissions by the choices they make?

On this basis, the emissions of energy supply (23%)  – mainly electricity generation – are decided by government decisions and regulations. It was government dictat which stopped coal use in power generation by imposing a cost penalty on coal burnt in power stations. These emissions are not business emissions as although business is an end user, like we the consumer, they do not determine the power mix of power generation, it is government regulation and pricing mechanisms which do.

18% from business is business’s responsibility.

28 % from transport. “Road transport is the most significant source of emissions in this sector, in particular passenger cars; and the changes which have been seen over the period were heavily influenced by this category. Figure 5 shows how the volume of traffic on the roads has changed over time in Great Britain, which reflects the trend seen for the UK. Motor vehicle traffic volumes have generally increased throughout this period, other than a fall seen between 2007 and 2012 following the recession.”

56% of transport emissions relate to passenger cars, so even if one assumes that all the other transport emissions are business then 12% of total UK emissions are business transport emissions but 16% are public emissions, from our choice to drive ICE vehicles.

15% from the residential sector “The residential sector consists of emissions from fuel combustion for heating and cooking, garden machinery, and fluorinated gases released from aerosols and metered dose inhalers. It is estimated to have been responsible for around 15% of UK greenhouse gas emissions in 2018, with carbon dioxide being the most prominent gas for this sector (96%). The main source of emissions from this sector is the use of natural gas for heating and cooking.”

These are not business emissions. Again, these are emissions from our choice to use carbon fuels in our homes. There are roughly 27 million homes in the UK, the government has a target to install 600,000 heat pump systems per annum. At this rate, we will still have carbon heating in 2066 and nearly 10 million UK homes will still have carbon heating by 2050. To put this in perspective in 2017, 20,000 heat pump systems were installed.

10% Agriculture. If one considers agriculture to be a business, then these emissions are business emissions. But half these emissions arise from the production of meat products. One can argue that again these emissions arise as a result of the choice which we the consumer makes to eat meat and therefore that “business emissions” in agriculture are 5% of the total.

2% from industrial processes is a business responsibility.

2% Public sector is not a business responsibility.

5% Waste management (mainly landfill). At least half of this is from food waste in landfill. So, I would suggest business is responsible for 2% of these emissions at most.

Land use is negative 2-3% mainly from forestry.

Using this basis, business is responsible for the emissions from total UK emissions of business 18%, business transport 12%, Industrial processes 2%, waste management 2% , a total of 34%. If agriculture is included this increase to either 39% or 44% (depending on how meat production emissions are treated).

Consumers are responsible for emissions from private transport 16%, residential 15%, waste 3%, a total of 34%.

Government is responsible for Energy supply 23% and public sector 2%, a total of 25%

This doesn’t allocate the negative land use of 2-3%.

Using these UK numbers, business is responsible for (and can control and reduce) under half of the UK emissions. It does not control the emissions of Energy Supply, (even if it is a part end user like consumers) nor of the public sector nor of consumers themselves.

A recent poll showed that 67% of UK respondents thought the government should do more about zero carbon. What these figures show is that those respondents need to do more about their own emissions if net zero carbon, is to be achieved. Buying electric cars, using non carbon heating for their homes, minimising food waste in land fill and probably eating a lot less meat are all decisions we need to make. And I haven’t included emissions from flying.

Net zero carbon is about our choices as well as government action.

© Chris Lenon and  2020-2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Chris Lenon and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Can the poor afford zero carbon?

A number of reports have come out claiming that zero carbon can be achieved at little cost, recently for the EU. Many of the advocates of the Green New Deal are on the left. I’m not sure that these advocates have resolved the dilemma of how the poor afford zero carbon technology. There is no magic money tree for new zero carbon technology, either the government funds it through taxation or borrowing, consumers pay or investors in the new technology receive lower returns to reduce the cost to the consumer.

A number of stories about the cost of green technology for the poor, question this. The Independent has reported that 1/3rd of UK adults have no savings, other reports show over 40% of UK adults have less than £1000 savings. So how are these people going to make the investment in an electric car or an air source heat pump? And if not they, who?

Although the price of green technology is falling, it is still a large capital outlay. So, financing this investment for the poorer half of the population is a big issue. A report by the RAC in November 2020, claimed that 30% of the UK population could not afford even the cheapest electric cars. This is regardless of the fact the running costs are lower, the barrier is buying the electric car.

When I posted on the zero carbon Britain Facebook group about air source heat pumps, more than half the comments were about them being too expensive, from a group which supports zero carbon! All this suggests that financing zero carbon technology is a major issue. This may be why the Finance Industry is such a strong advocate – they will make significant returns on the investment cost of zero carbon technology.

For domestic heating and hot water, this problem is aggravated for poorer 50% of the population, by their probable lack of control over their housing. They are more likely to be renting from social housing or private landlords. So, it is those landlords who will need to make the investment in zero carbon domestic heating. But will they without regulation?

The question is who will fund the investment in zero carbon technology for the poorer 50%? How will the landlords. letting to this group be persuaded to invest in zero carbon heating? What will be the effect on their returns? How will the acquisition of electric cars be affordable for the poorer 50%?

© Chris Lenon and  2020-2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Chris Lenon and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Air Source Heat Pumps – viable carbon free domestic heating?

One of the larger contributors to UK emissions is domestic power use for heating, hot water, etc taking 15% of UK emissions. The main fuel source for heating in the UK is gas with 63% of the total. The primary option for zero carbon emission heating (based on used zero carbon electricity) is an air source heat pump. Hydrogen may be an option in due course, but it will require a significant investment in renewable power as currently over 90% of hydrogen is produced using carbon sources.

Source Ovo Energy

So, Air Source heat pumps or Ground Source heat pumps are the main option for carbon free residential heating and hot water (if they use non carbon electricity). This is simple technology, outdoor ambient heat is transferred to a coolant using a heat exchanger coil, this coolant is compressed and the temperature increased, this heated coolant transfers heat to the hot water store through a heat exchanger coil. A “standard” domestic air source heat pump can extract useful heat down to about −15 °C (5 °F).

I had an air source heat pump installed earlier this year. The main difference from conventional central heating is that it operates at a lower background temperature throughout 24 hours a day. Its sophistication is that based on sensors outdoors that will adjust the temperature of the water in the system.

The controls of the Unit .

My calculations are that it is competitive with gas and four times as efficient as an electric boiler. The investment cost is higher than a gas boiler, but the maintenance costs lower. The costs are further reduced if electricity generated from residential solar is used.

The issue for the UK is that a conventional plumber’s training is not sufficient for installing and maintaining air source heat pumps. As a result, there may be logistical issues in installing the over 20 million systems that would be needed in the UK. Only 207,000 systems had been installed in the UK by 2018 so the rate of installation would have to increase dramatically. There are UK producers of air source heat pumps, but most pumps fitted in the UK are imported.

My experience of the air source heat pump is favourable. It is known technology capable of mass rollout. The take up to date is disappointing despite the Renewable Heat Incentive support. While new homes will have to fit non carbon heating from from 2025, the question is will consumers switch to this heating? Zero carbon is our choice as consumers – will we make that choice?

© Chris Lenon and  2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Chris Lenon and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.