The UK is not known for its great weather but harsh winters and lacklustre summers instead, and we build houses with this in mind. Insulation for warmth is vital, and when that isn’t enough, most of us rely on central heating throughout the colder months.
Though you may think you already do, it is usually not until you experience a boiler breakdown in the middle of winter that you genuinely appreciate your central heating system. And for most of us, our central heating is powered by gas.
However, the system we have in place today has not been around for all that long. The gas industry has gone through many changes in the last few hundred years, and it looks like there are some even more significant changes on the way.
The Evolution Of Gas and Heating
It wasn’t until the late 1700’s that we first used gas to heat homes. Scottish inventor and engineer William Murdoch first lit an entire home using gas and, in 1796, began to develop gas-fuel on a more commercial level (Source: National Grid). Less than 100 years later, we used gas for lighting, heating, and cooking. However, it had also soon found a rival in the form of electricity.
Even with this, many people continued to use wood-burning stoves well into the 1900s. (Source: Diligent Developments). Most likely, due to familiarity, cost, and convenience.
Cast iron radiators became popular in the 1930s. But, using a large quantity of water and being incredibly heavy, they were not the most convenient nor efficient way of heating a house. Thankfully, a few decades later, the UK saw the introduction of the panel radiator. Requiring half of the amount of water that the cast iron radiator needed, it was a welcome advancement. (Source: Diligent Developments)
For the last few centuries, natural gas, oil, and coal have been vital in our advancement across industries and improved quality of life. However, these fossil fuels are depleting, and the impact on our planet is severe. Though we are a small country, the UK is the 17th biggest emitter of carbon dioxide in the world. (Source: UCSUSA)
Looking forward, the government, manufacturers, scientists, and homeowners will need to work together to find eco-friendly, efficient, and affordable ways to heat our homes.
The Future of The Heating And Gas Industry
In 2008, the government passed The Climate Change Act. The act aims to reduce the UK’s carbon emissions by at least 80% compared to the 1990 baseline. With until 2050 to achieve this, the act allows ministers powers to set new measures to reach the target.
Then, in 2017 the government launched the Clean Growth Strategy. The strategy proposes how to decarbonise different sectors of the UK economy throughout the next decade. Currently, heating is responsible for nearly half of all energy use in the UK and a third of carbon emissions (Source: Carbon Brief).
Submitted are several ideas to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 57% below 1990 levels. These include electric, heat pumps, hydrogen, and biogas.
Energy consumption in homes is already falling. Gradually, people are switching to low-carbon heating and improved energy efficiency.
Smart meters allow consumers to reduce their energy usage and make more eco-friendly choices manually. LED lightbulbs, which use 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs, have become the norm in homes. New builds are being constructed with insulation as an important factor, and more and more people are opting for hybrid or electric cars over traditional petrol/diesel-powered models.
All the above and more is an incredibly positive change. However, more change is needed to meet the Clean Growth Strategy targets.
There is no quick fix that can happen overnight, and homeowners will need convincing before investing their hard-earned money into any new technology. Though the gas industry is ever-evolving, we won’t see a sudden change soon.
With 8/10 homes connected to the gas grid, it will be a while before we say goodbye to gas boilers for good. But in the meantime, what could the gas industry’s future look like?