We held a webinar discussing whole house renwables, and here are some of the key takeaways from the session.
The webinar featured expert speakers Charlotte Lee – CEO, Heat Pump Association; Kara Davies – Policy Manager, Solar Energy UK; and Alastair Mumford – Programme Director, The MCS Foundation.
The panel discussed how homeowners and small business owners can benefit from installing low-carbon energy and heat technologies, as well as how contractors can grow from diversifying into these technologies in a world transitioning to net zero.
Consumers and prosumers
The speakers started the session by setting out their positions on why whole house renewables are important. HPA’s Charlotte Lee said: “We must decarbonise home heating. One way to do that is through the electrification of heat, and heat pumps provide an electrified source of heat to properties, they can be three to four times more efficient than fossil fuel boilers. But along with moving towards the electrification of heat, we also need to make our homes more energy efficient and we need to consider how we as consumers become prosumers. So how we can both produce and consume our own energy and electricity. And that looks at and draws in the benefits of solar PV and battery storage too.”
Solar Energy UK’s Kara Davies agreed that a combination of low-carbon technologies will be necessary. She said: “There is no silver bullet for net zero, but ultimately we believe that solar energy is the enabling technology of a net zero home. That is you can use the clean electricity generated by your PV to power other low carbon technologies such as heat pumps to maximise the potential of all of your systems whilst transitioning to clean heat and power.”
Alastair Mumford from The MCS Foundation added that a whole house approach gives flexibility. He said: “We need to have adaptability and renewables gives you that adaptability within a house to be able to respond to changes.” He also spoke about how low-carbon tech, particularly solar PV, can act as a catalyst for change. “Solar is a gateway drug to low carbon lifestyles. It’s relatively straightforward and the disruption is so much lower than some of the energy efficiency measures. So it’s really important for getting people engaged, getting them onto that journey, becoming a producer, a prosumer.”
The panel also spoke about how the whole house approach encourages cross-industry partnerships and collaboration. Charlotte highlighted the need for a simple consumer journey, saying: “We need to make this process as easy and consumer friendly as possible if we want it to work and want to get the buy-in and the acceptance. And where we are at the moment in terms of development, there are definitely opportunities to streamline that in a much cleverer, consumer friendly way.”
Alastair echoed this need for simplicity when taking a whole house approach that involves multiple technologies. He said: “I still think there needs to be quite a lot of development in the industry around getting all those things to work together. Most of the technology – heat pumps, solar – is tried and tested, but it’s around getting them to work together.”
On the subject of newbuild, Kara said there are clear advantages for developers and housing providers to include solar PV. She said: “Low carbon technologies canbe added at the point of construction, which means a lower installation costs. From our research it was about 10 to 15% cheaper. Not only that, but embedding in a solar system from the beginning means that you can have a greater efficiency level because factors such as installation, orientation, airflow, all of those can be considered during the design phase.”
Also discussed was the upcoming Future Homes Standard, which Kara described as “critically important” for the PV industry. She added: “The Future Homes Standard will effectively determine the minimum level of energy efficiency that housing developers will have to build to. And what we’ve seen with previous iterations of these Building Regs is that housing developers will not go above what is required in the standards. So it’s critically important that the standards are ambitious, so that the homeowners can get the maximum benefit from their PV systems and their clean heat systems, both in terms of net zero, but also in terms of the savings to the consumer as well.”
Ensuring the country has enough skilled installers, as well as all the other people involved, is crucial to delivering whole house renewables, the speakers agreed. Alastair spoke about the skills working group that is part of the National Retrofit Hub, and also described the research MCS has carried out on attracted the next generation. He said: “We did some research into Gen Z around their views of renewables and green jobs in general – it just wasn’t on their radar. We’re just about to start a piece of work with careers advisors.”
Skills is also an area of priority for the Solar Taskforce, Kara explained: “We are working with DESNZ at the moment to set up our pathway to drive the 70 gigawatts by 2035. One of those key areas of focus is around skills and we’ll be releasing a piece of research and the roadmap on how we can deliver that in February 2024.”
Existing installers adding heat pumps to their skills aren’t incentivised enough, according to Charlotte. She said: “The grants don’t go far enough, in the sense that they doesn’t counteract the cost of the days at work missed by the people undertaking the training. And I think that’s something we really need to be mindful of because the heating engineers currently are not short of work. They don’t have free days lying around where they can do the training. They’ve got full order books, they’re working to capacity and they’re doing installations that they’re used to doing that consumers are asking for and they feel confident. So in order to get the step change needed to perhaps push them outside of their comfort zone, we need to set really clear policy points – and keep to them in terms of clarity to say this is where the industry’s going, you’re going to have to get there at some point and doing so now will you set you up well for the future.”
To watch the session on demand visit: crowdcast.io/c/wholehouserenewables