Our response to the Government's ten-point plan for decarbonisation

The publication of the Government’s new ten-point plan is a significant step forward in the drive to achieve a zero-carbon economy by 2050, but one that creates huge opportunities and challenges for the property sector. Alan Wilson, Business Development Director at NetZero Collective, discusses the implications for the housing sector.

There is no doubt that the Government’s new plan will help to accelerate the significant growth we are already seeing in the development of low carbon technologies for homes.

The plan will impact directly on the housing sector with aims to install 600,000 heat pumps a year by 2028, the introduction of hydrogen into the gas grid and the extension of the Green Home Grant.

This is welcome news for landlords and property organisations, creating huge opportunities for innovation and growth and providing a level of assurance on the direction of travel.

But it also brings significant challenges for the supply chain to deliver the technologies and the infrastructure needed to ensure it plays its full part in the green industrial revolution.

Creating the low carbon workforce of the future

Ensuring the sector develops people with the right skills to install and maintain these new technologies will be fundamental to achieving the shift to zero carbon.

There is currently a real shortage of engineers that are adequately trained to install technologies such as ground and air-source heat pumps. If we are to meet targets to rapidly increase the scale at which heat pumps are installed, this skills gap needs to be urgently addressed.

We’re working with local authorities and landlords to create ‘centres of excellence for decarbonisation’ in partnership with local colleges and training providers. This is a model which has been successfully used before by the automotive industry in the North East, creating a cluster of advanced businesses working together to build skills and expertise.

The centres of excellence will not only start to build the skilled workforce that is needed, but will also ensure that local areas can benefit economically from the investments being made as part of the so called green industrial revolution, through creation of local high value jobs.

Sustainable solutions

Whilst plans announced to mix hydrogen into the gas grid to reduce Co2 emissions in homes appears to be a radical step forward, we believe it is not necessarily the answer longer term and requires huge investment in green hydrogen production facilities if the hydrogen is be truly zero carbon.

Hydrogen can only be added at low quantities without domestic boilers needing upgrades, while many would need to be replaced altogether, leading to the question of whether this really is a sustainable solution that the country can deliver on.

Similarly, the measures outlined to run a whole town on hydrogen by 2030 faces the same difficulties. It will be important to explore whether other low carbon technologies such as heat pumps could provide the answer because they are easier to switch to and don’t need the associated upgrades to the gas grid and green hydrogen production infrastructure.

Research and data

There is little commitment to ensure that learning takes place during the roll-out of the plans proposed. Delivering these technologies to the timescales set out in the plan mean that the role of research and data into which are best suited to different property types and which will achieve the best low carbon results will be vital.

This is a key aim of the NetZero Collective in bringing together a wide range of social housing and local authority partners together with research institutions, data experts and energy experts to analyse, trial and test different technologies and produce an evidence based system to inform investment decisions around decarbonisation. This will mean property owners can be confident that they’re investing in the right-first-time solutions for their assets.

These ambitious targets will only be achieved by the sector working together, sharing ideas, best practice and solutions and grasping all opportunities to play its full part in delivering a zero-carbon future.