Efficiency, demand reduction or electrification?

Panel: 6. Innovations in buildings and appliances

This is a peer-reviewed paper.

Nick Eyre, Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford , Oxford University Centre for the Environment, United Kingdom
Nick Eyre, ECI, Oxford, United Kingdom


Even the most ambitious energy efficiency programmes seem unlikely, alone, to deliver the major reductions in carbon emissions that are required to stabilise the climate; supply side change will be needed as well. This has important implications for energy use in buildings, particular in regions with a significant requirement for space heating, e.g. in much of northern Europe, where currently this is largely provided directly by fossil fuels. Most studies indicate that large scale electrification of heating demand will be required to meet long term policy goals. Using the UK as a case study, this paper reviews the analyses that point to low carbon electricity accompanied by electrification of demand as a climate panacea. It investigates the socio-technical feasibility of electrification of heating, with reference to the implied changes in behaviour of consumers, equipment supply chains and the capacity of electricity generation and distribution systems. It concludes that electrification of heating is only likely to prove a viable climate solution in the context of significantly reduced heating demand. The two processes of demand reduction and electrification need to be conceptualised, planned and delivered together if there is to be a successful transition to very low carbon buildings.


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