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Part L: Electricity now greener than gas?

07 Nov 2019

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In this series of articles, we aim to answer some of your questions about the upcoming changes to Approved Documents L and F, SAP methodology and the Future Homes Standard.

Current proposals suggest these regulations will be coming into force in England from October 2020. Contact us with your own questions about the regulation changes, or to discuss our training seminars and workshops.

 

How can electricity suddenly be greener than gas?

The UK is successfully decarbonising its electricity grid by investing in wind, solar and nuclear. This has been happening steadily over the past seven years. The shift seems sudden in Building Regulations because the methodology hasn’t been updated since 2012… we’re just catching up.

Throughout Energist’s history we’ve been advising construction companies to avoid electric heating because the carbon footprint of generating the fuel is far too high. But when AD L changes next year the industry will be spinning on a sixpence and moving away from gas heating systems in favour of electric fed heating solutions. It all boils down to how the UK electricity network has been decarbonised.

Under the current SAP methodology (released in 2012), a kilowatt of electricity is seen to produce 519 grams of CO2. The same amount of gas produces only 216 grams. Therefore, the more gas you can use in a house instead of electricity, the more chance you have of complying with the Target Emission Rate and passing building regulations.

But under the proposed changes to SAP, a kilowatt of electricity will produce just 136 grams against 210 for gas.

The emission factor for gas has barely changed in seven years because the way we extract, refine and transport gas has barely changed.

Meanwhile we’ve been busy switching our power stations from coal and gas to wind, solar and nuclear. In doing so the UK can produce electricity with a lower carbon footprint than gas which means electric fed heating systems are more beneficial.

But before you buy a boatful of panel heaters, keep in mind the targets in AD L are changing next year. The Target Emission Rate is staying (albeit much stricter than currently) and yes, we expect a house with panel heaters will score a better emission rate than one with gas.

However, the two new mandatory targets, Primary Energy Factor and Household Affordability, both work against panel heaters. Overall, we believe developers will find heat pumps are the best solution for complying with all three targets.

Looking a few years ahead, the UK’s construction industry is going to be pushed towards heat pump technology as standard with fossil fuel heating solutions destined for the history books.

The Energist Technical Team can help you prepare for the AD L changes, and work with you to find a specification that works against the new proposed targets.

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