The government and the heating industry need to work together to create an eco-friendly UK

There are lots of popular soundbites that have been thrown around in the last decade or so surrounding the environment. To name just a few: Climate change. Carbon footprint. Eco-friendly. Sustainable living. Renewable energy. Global warming. Greenhouse gases. Emissions. These have become very important words and phrases as we have become increasingly aware of the fragility of our planet. These words appear regularly in the media and we often hear of summits where world leaders gather to pat themselves on the back with the announcements of budget and reduction targets. However, these fancy words and meetings are only helpful if there is a detailed plan underpinning their aims. Because the majority of the UK’s energy consumption goes on creating heat, in 2012, the Heating & Hotwater Industry Council (HHIC) commissioned a report on what the necessary steps should be for the UK to successfully become a decarbonised country in regards to our domestic heating generation. The HHIC wanted to make sure than the plan included the use of a mixture of all types of fuels and technologies, which is in stark contrast the previous government initiatives that have solely focused on all-electric solutions. The resulting report has come up with practical and achievable suggestions that has roles for both the Government and industry in helping the UK to reduce carbon emissions and to reach various targets that need to be met. - There needs to be a committed long-term policy for heat generation. The report suggests that the current use of ‘incentives’ to encourage the use of more eco-friendly products and behaviour is not effective enough. It feels that regulations enshrined in law is the only way that the heating industry and the public will have the knowledge and confidence to fully invest themselves in alternative heating systems. - Long-term policies will encourage investment in new technologies. If the ‘money men’ see that the government is seriously committed to eco-friendly technologies for the long haul, then, provided the government take all the necessary steps to make it worthwhile, people and businesses will feel encouraged to make financial commitments for the development of new products and technologies. All new technologies take time to come to fruition so the sooner people can be persuaded to invest, the better. - The government needs to seriously listen to experts within the heating industry. It is these people who have the knowledge and expertise in the sector, and it is ultimately these people who will be driving forward the new technologies. Therefore, the government should actively engage with these experts so that the process of creating high quality and efficient products and the subsequent roll-out and take up among consumers can be as smooth and effective as possible. - The heating industry needs to work hard on making customers aware of the existence of many new technologies and products. Traditional, carbon-heavy products are so ingrained in the mind of the public, that the industry will need to make a concerted effort to increase their knowledge and awareness. - Additionally, the heating industry needs to ensure it presents the alternative technologies in a very positive light that clearly highlights the benefits and gains to consumers. It is no use if the fantastic, low-carbon products exist but homeowners do not feel happy about installing them. All information given to consumers must be clear, concise and comparable. The more consumers understand and are comfortable with new and emerging technologies, the happier they will be with using them in their homes. Clearly the government has a massive role to play in creating regulations, removing barriers and encouraging investment in the eco-friendly market. However, the role of the heating industry in helping the UK become a carbon-free society should definitely not be underestimated. Householders are interested in their heating system being reliable and keeping them warm when they most need it. It is estimated that as much as 85% of new home heating systems are made by heating installers on behalf of the customer, rather than the customer making the purchase directly themselves. This clearly demonstrates the power that the heating installer has on what products, technologies and systems are used in homes across Britain, so it is vital that installers create an environment whereby the customer is happy with eco-friendly technologies and that they understand the benefits to their lives (and their bank balance), as well as being made aware of any applicable financial incentives or assistance. It is definitely possible for the UK to hit its carbon emissions targets and to become a genuinely more eco-efficient society. However, this can only happen if the government and heating industry are pulling in the same direction and are actively engaging the public to successfully get them onboard for the long journey ahead. Article by Benjamin Clarke
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