A situation has arisen where we have a push from government and industry to adopt new technologies for their environmental benefits and yet there is almost no discussion whatsoever about those environmental benefits, instead the conversation is almost exclusively about costs and practicalities. Both of those facets are of course important, but nothing can trump the cost and ‘impracticality’ of an environment in crisis.

There is also a prevailing narrative that certain individual changes are niche, marginal, and ineffectual.

Sadly, much of the blame for the current conversation can be blamed on widespread FUD – fear, uncertainty, and doubt – about the disruptive technologies that threaten to unseat the entrenched industries that care more about the next financial quarter than the next quarter century.

Let’s take it back to basics, bypass the FUD for a moment and look at where we are on a global and individual level, and what we can do about it in reference to deploying technology.

Nearly every year is warmer than the last, and CO2 is the main culprit. That CO2 is largely emitted from the burning of fossil fuels. Land-use change – deforestation and soil degradation – also plays a part. It’s typically calculated to be and 80/20 split between the two sources, so reducing the burning of fossil fuel to zero is an urgent priority.

There are two technologies that stand head and shoulders above others that can reduce the amount of fossil fuels that a typical household uses. Heat pumps for warming us through the winter, and electrification for getting us from A to B.

To compare, what does a typical fossil fuel powered household use in terms of energy and how much CO2 does that produce?

Heating with gas boiler –11,000 units of gas per year producing 185g of CO per unit = 2,035 tonnes per year.

Transport with conventional car – 1.25 cars doing 9,250 miles per year producing 2.4 tonnes CO2 per year.

Totalling 4,435 tonnes per year.

Electrified scenario.

Heating with heat pump – 2,750 units of electricity per year producing 366kg CO2 per year.

Transport with electric car – 2,312 units of electricity per year to power 1.25 electric cars doing a total of 9,250 miles per year producing 307kg CO2 per year.

Totalling 673kg per year.

That represents a six and a half times reduction in CO2 emissions, and as every year passes the carbon intensity of the national grid falls meaning that situation constantly improves.

Typically, heating and personal transport make up around 60% of a households annual CO2, so reducing CO2 emissions so dramatically in these two areas has a huge effect, and if we apply electrification throughout the supply chain then the other 40% stands to be similarly reduced.

*assumptions

  • UK grid carbon intensity of 133g CO2 per unit produced from last 20 weeks data.
  • Household taking all its energy from the grid without using other sources such as home solar.
  • Heat pump operating at 4 times the efficiency unit for unit of a typical gas boiler.
  • Conventional car ownership levels, efficiency, and emissions at UK average.
  • Electric car travelling four miles per unit of electricity.

Notes

  • Currently there are 5,000 electric cars available below £17,000 (the average spend on a second-hand car in the UK) on AutoTrader.
  • There are grants available of up to £7,500 for heat pump installations, meaning a typical 3 bedroom house can have a heat pump fitted for around £5,000.