Common Sense and Heat Pumps 286

In discussing government proposals to effectively enforce a mass public switch to heat pumps for home heating rather than gas boilers, I venture into an area where I have no expertise. I therefore intend to set out a series of numbered propositions which appear to me incontrovertible.


I follow this by a series a) b) c) of policy propositions. (I have been trying to think of a word for enumerate when you are marking by alphabet, but can’t come up with one).

This is very much an invitation to debate, not an attempt to impose my view. I am reliant on common sense, which is really just an idiom meaning logic. Here are my propositions:

1) It is not unreasonable for people to wish homes to be heated to 20°C or slightly higher.

2) Heat pumps are much more energy efficient than gas boilers. They are therefore undoubtedly a good thing for reducing energy use. But in home size applications they cannot match a gas boiler’s ability to generate very hot water quickly.

3) Insulation should come before heat pumps. To concentrate on how heating is produced, ahead of reducing the need for heating, is illogical. This is particularly true as a great deal of the housing stock is so poorly insulated that standard domestic heat pumps are insufficiently powerful to maintain 20C in them in cold weather.

4) The efficiency of heat pumps reduces in cold weather. They use more electricity to produce the same amount of heat. This is a different point to the obvious fact that more heat is needed in cold weather.

5) Almost all heat pump systems therefore have an auxiliary method of simple resistance electric heating to boost output when needed, akin to an immersion heater. The “they work in Norway” argument therefore needs deeper consideration.

6) Ground source heat pumps do not suffer such efficiency losses but are much more expensive installations and of course you have to own enough ground.

6) In fact, particularly in colder areas, the fuel cost of running a heat pump is not significantly cheaper, and often not cheaper at all, than running a gas boiler with the same result in heat output. The notion that a heat pump will pay for itself in lower fuel bills is generally false.

7) The primary reason for this is that electricity is much more expensive than gas per thermal unit.

8) Electricity prices in the UK are double those in France from their state energy company, while the British privatised energy companies throughout the supply train make massive profits.

9) A full heat pump installation to an average home obviously varies but costs around £20,000. With upgraded radiators and insulation it not infrequently can be double that or more.

10) As a general rule, those least able to afford it live in the worst housing, particularly with regard to insulation.

11) It is simply impractical for the cost of transition to heat pumps to be met by the ordinary citizen.

12) The national grid already operates at 99% of capacity in coldest days of winter, even including the capacity to import. If all gas boilers were swapped for heat pumps, electricity demand on the coldest days of winter would approximately double.

So what is the solution? Well, I have long argued that the state needs to undertake a massive, fully state funded programme of insulation in every home. Here are my policy propositions:

a) The transition to a lower carbon economy is a massive undertaking that cannot be met by consumers “nudged” by government incentives or taxations

b) It requires emergency state intervention akin to the state takeover of virtually all industry during World War 2

c) All energy companies must be nationalised

d) The state must undertake a massive and urgent programme bringing every home up to high insulation standards, mobilising the needed resources and labour

e) Distributed electricity production must be prioritised. All buildings should be fitted with solar panels and battery storage, and marine type wind turbines

f) Heat pumps should be installed by the state in homes where practical. District heating systems should be constructed in all dense urban areas. A range of other technologies, eg biogas and geothermal, should be deployed for these where appropriate.

g) Use of fossil fuel should be minimised but abolition is impractical.

h) Land based wind power should be massively boosted and storage options, particularly pumped hydro-electric, selected and capacity built. Estuary barrages should be prioritised.

i) There must be an acceptance of undesirable localised environmental impact necessary to the big picture

I fear that ill thought out schemes that threaten to land households with massive and unrealistic transition costs are leading to an upsurge in climate change denial.

This claim from the Scottish Greens paints a far more optimistic picture:

Unfortunately it is not really true. If you look at the actual datasets for the survey, you find that 46.76% answered: “I would be willing to install a heat pump only with government finance”. Only 10.02% said they were prepared to install a heat pump without government finance.

Current proposals for subsidy would still leave the average consumer with a five figure bill. This is not the way forward.

Your views are most welcome. I realise this will attract some climate change denial in the comments, but hey-ho it’s a free blog.


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286 thoughts on “Common Sense and Heat Pumps

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  • Peter Johnston

    Technically agree overall, but point 5 needs exploring. Modern heat pumps don’t have auxiliary heating. Coefficient of Performance of 2 is available on modern Heatpumps at -20 deg.
    In this country we are decades behind any other in heating our homes. As you correctly point out insulation being the largest factor. Another area where we lag behind is in the use of weather compensation modes in heating. This is mandatory in some countries for all boilers. This is where the heat output is adjusted to compensate for outside air temperatures, thus stopping your home overheating from high radiator temperatures, which is common with gas boilers. You don’t need 70 deg radiators if the temperature outside is 20 deg.
    I would add, there is nothing in that snow image that would stop your heatpump working. As with any outside boiler snow would have to be cleared to allow it to breath.

  • David U

    Hi Craig
    Interested in you dipping your toe into this. Like you I can see no incentive to do this while the cost of electricity is three times the cost of gas and with the efficiency of heat pumps historically being around 300%, at best the running cost would break even. This obviously doesn’t give any payback to offset the installation costs. I understand the efficiency of modern heat pumps is improving all the time, but this needs to be witnessed in real life. Disconnecting the cost of electricity from the gas price would be a start at least, with a reduced electricity price perhaps giving some financial incentive to switch.
    One of the problems I can imagine with a mass imposed roll out of heat pumps will be the quality of installers. My understanding of heat pumps is that like most things, you will only get the results you want if the proper analysis has been done beforehand, and I suspect a flood of installations will result installations not fit for the property.
    Like you I have no particular expertise but have tried to understand the concepts so that I can at least have a slightly informed opinion. I have found that a website / YouTube channel called Heat Geeks is very useful for all things heating related where many of the things you have mentioned are discussed.

  • Nathaniel Boden

    Another interesting, detailed and well-researched article. I’m not sure what point you are trying to make about Norway though, do the heat pumps there not have auxiliary hearing systems?

    • dean

      the point was that they do. They work in Norway bit if you have to run them like an emersion heater then they are doing nothing for the climate

  • Jimmeh

    I had to replace my old gas boiler a year ago.

    I live in a modern first-floor flat in a two-storey block. The block is owned by a company in which flat “owners” are all shareholders. This company, effectively my landlord, also serves as a residents’ association. They will not allow the installation of solar panels; I think it’s very unlikely they will allow the installation of the huge heat-exchangers required for a heat-pump (much bigger than aircon heat-exchangers).

    I asked the fitter about heat pumps. They didn’t quote, but they said it would cost at least £15,000, not including installing new radiators, which itself would be hugely disruptive. I went for a new gas boiler, which was installed in an afternoon and cost £2,000.

    Most people live in flats with no garden, leased from a landlord that can veto heat-exchangers on walls and solar panels on roofs. For most of these people, the only way to avoid gas heating would be community heating systems. I don’t hear politicians and pundits calling for a government programme to build-out community heating.

    Regarding nationalizing energy companies: Hear, hear. As each one goes bust, nationalize it at zero cost. Do the same to water companies and train operators while you’re at it.

  • Neil

    Some random thoughts:

    1. Over the years, I have steadily improved my insulation. About the only steps that remain are (a) switch from double- to triple-glazing (very expensive) and (b) replace some of my curtains with heavier ones (I’ll probably do this, but the saving will be quite small).

    2. The improvement in insulation has not reduced my energy consumption; rather I keep my home a bit warmer. I am a very ancient Old Fart (much more ancient than Craig) and need a warm home to stay healthy.

    3. Here are two web sites, which present data about the working of the National Grid, in different formats. The second one in addition shows data on the French electrical grid. They both show that during the day, the UK typically imports around 6 to 8 GW of electrical power (about 3 to 4 very large power stations). The UK currently has no spare capacity to support a large expansion of electrical cars, nor of electrical domestic heating (whether heat pumps or not).

    4. Given the current make up of the electric supply, it is more efficient to burn gas in a boiler at home (95%+ efficiency) than it is to burn gas in a power station and use the electricity it generates to generate heat. So for the time being, I don’t feel guilty about having a gas boiler. That might change in future.

    5. I am curious why French electricity consumption is so much higher than UK?

    • David Murdoch

      Hi Neil,

      France has next to no natural energy resources and no oil or gas so many homes are electric only for heating and hot water. This is compensated for by having quite a lot of nuclear production.


    • Phil Espin

      One thing I like about France is that they have a traffic light electricity system. On green days electricity is cheapest, on amber days it is more expensive and on Red days most expensive. Red days are notified in advance so you can avoid consumption on Red days, reducing national demand and personal bills.

      I throw my hands up in despair at our energy system. Completely agree with Craig, it should be renationalised.

    • david

      We got triple glazing last year and it has been good. Wenbadlt needed new windows anyway and it wasn’t much more expensive To go triple glazing instead of double. However, if your existing double glazing is in good condition it’s probably not worth doing until they do need replaced.

      • Neil

        David, I had my double glazing installed more than 30 years ago, and it is still in good condition. Triple glazing wasn’t available back then (or if it was, I was unaware of it). You’re right of course that it is hard to justify the very high cost of switching from double to triple glazing. It might possibly be worth it for my largest window, which is enormous. Perhaps I should get a couple of quotes to see.

        PS. Who or what is “Wenbadlt”?

  • S

    Thanks for drawing attention to this, Craig, and also for being open about the unknowns, and for addressing the scandalous abuse of statistics.
    It reminds me of the situation with Electric Vehicles. I’m a scientist, but it is really hard to get accurate statistics or information about how “green” Electric Vehicles really are.
    Rather, it seems most people are happy to jump into a “pro” or “anti” camp and shout at each other.

    It’s now some time since David MacKay wrote “Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air”. His early death was such a loss.

    • Lapsed Agnostic

      Prof Mackay may sadly no longer be with us, S, but his book still is, and is (legally) available to read for free online (although people can also buy physical copies – not sure if his widow and child get any royalties) here:

      This is the section on heat-pumps, which is worth a read in the context on this blogpost (I don’t think it’s too technical for the lay reader – could be wrong):

      Nothing’s perfect, of course: apart from one or two school-boy errors/howlers, my main issue with the book is that it barely touches on (green) hydrogen – which is, of course, the answer to our domestic heating problem.

      (Note: After getting embroiled in more protracted arguments with people – this time about the meaning of the words ‘revolution’ & ‘coup’, and events that happened nearly a decade ago – on the last-but-one blogpost, I can’t currently face another ding-dong with the likes of Natasha about leakages and ‘thermal NOx’ etc, plus I’ve got a bit of work to do – not least in the garden*, as it’s finally stopped pissing down. I may feel up it in a couple days’ time.)

      Anyway, the take-home message is: Hydrogen is the answer.

      * Even though half it consists essentially of weeds (blame my late mother for that: she thought most of them were ornamental plants that had fortuitously self-seeded from neighbouring plots), they’ll still have to pretty much put a gun to my head to get me to have it dug up and then spend 30 grand or so to install a ground-based heat-pump.

      • Jimmeh

        > Anyway, the take-home message is: Hydrogen is the answer.

        “Green” hydrogen is hydrogen produced by electrolysing water using “green” electricity, i.e. renewables. At best, electrolysis is 70%-80% efficient. The resulting H₂ then has to be pumped into pipelines, from which some proportion will escape, especially if it uses existing natural gas pipelines.

        Equipment designed for burning natural gas has to be modified to burn hydrogen.

        It seems barmy to me to generate hydrogen using an inefficient process, pump it down an inefficient pipe, to be burned (inefficiently) to produce heat, when you could simply send the green electricity directly to it’s point of use down a very efficient transmission line.

        • Lapsed Agnostic

          Thanks for your reply Jimmeh. I’d say that green hydrogen can also be produced from electricity generated by nuclear fission – obviously not everyone feels the same way. Commercial electrolysis may only be around 80% efficient at the moment*, but people are working on that:

          Some hydrogen will escape, but only a tiny fraction. That’s why airships built with materials available a hundred years ago didn’t generally end up in the middle of Atlantic Ocean.

          In the 1970’s, equipment designed for burning town gas (which was 50-60% hydrogen) had to be modified to burn North Sea gas. Most households didn’t have to break the bank to do it.

          The main problem with green electricity from renewables is its intermittancy. Prof MacKay has a chapter about it in his book:

          One way to solve this is to store it using huge arrays of batteries. However, its much cheaper to store the energy as hydrogen.

          (I’ll try to address your points this evening DG – bit busy at the moment.)

          * How efficient is an internal combustion engine? Around 30% if you’re lucky? Could be wrong – I’m not a petrol-head, and don’t even own a car.

      • deep green

        By green hydrogen do you mean hydrogen produced by electrolysis of water using electricity produced by some form of renewable energy? All the recent comments about heating systems prompted me do some reading. Several issues arose.
        1. there are more difficult safety issues related to substituting natural gas (methane) with hydrogen. Hydrogen has a greater tendency to explode. Hydrogen behaves differently to methane – it rises into overhead spaces.
        I assume you are suggesting that natural gas can be substituted for methane using the same distribution system. I am not sure that is correct. Hydrogen has different properties in relation to how it reacts with pipework.
        Let me be clear that I have just started reading around the issues – it’s a work in progress so am sure there are holes to be found. I can’t make definitive comments. I noticed that a trial is being conducted using Hydrogen as a heating source. Can’t remember details although I have the impression it is being held in Yorkshire. We’ll have to await the results of the trial.
        Production of Hydrogen: basically two methods-electrolysis and catalytic cracking. The current common system of cracking has been dismissed as it produces CO₂ – so not a way forward. However this is an active area of research and there are reports of using novel catalysts to produce Carbon nanotubes and hydrogen which has the potential to transform Hydrogen production. I don’t think this research has been published yet but obviously its something to keep an eye on.
        I personally have doubts about the scale required to produce Hydrogen. Obviously electrolysis is not chemically complex but the chemical engineering required to produce hydrogen at the scale required seems daunting, not to mention the need to adapt a distribution system and the cost of changing countless methane gas boilers.

        Re heat pumps – I think Craig has nailed the issue quite well. I have been a distant observer of the installation of an air source heat pump at my daughter’s house in Edinburgh. There are many snags – there seems to be a dearth of expertise/confidence at all levels – architect, main contractor and sub-contractor. Difficulties have arisen which involve very expensive remediation. The specialist installer deviated from the specification but he may have had good reason to, according to the conditions he was confronted with. It’s now a stalemate between the four parties. I should also make clear that the people involved are all professional and reputable but that hasn’t prevented the gremlins getting into the cracks. I suppose one can adopt a phlegmatic attitude that ‘new technique’ will always produce teething problems but the current situation seems to suggest that we can’t make mistakes at this point on the cycle of reforming our living arrangements to cope with global heating.
        The essential issue is the nature of the housing in Scotland, which has a climate which has tended to have relatively short spells of severe cold. This has led to poor design and provision for heating and ventilation and was built under budgetary constraint.
        My personal experience of ex-council housing (especially in relation to insulation, heating and ventilation) is of multiple systematic deficiencies. I have a strong opinion that the poor health parameters in Scotland are largely attributable to the abject quality of social housing and the neglect of the housing stock by repeated political regimes unwilling to dig into a costly nightmare of previous compounded error. Stone built tenements and the large west end residential style buildings present some considerable challenges. I would hesitate to even begin.
        The issue requires some serious thinking but what we are seeing is the usual simplistic shallow attitude. I suspect the greens have revealed themselves to be (yet again) lacking the characteristics that are required for government. I see no real coherent planning by any of the other parties.

        • Lapsed Agnostic

          Thanks for your reply DG. As promised here is my reply. Bit pissed though cos its Friday night so syntax may be even more garbled than usual. By green hydrogen I mean H2 generated from renewables or nuclear cos I think nuclear is fairly green – obvs others don’t.

          Mixtures of any flammable gas with air are explosive. One way of preventing this, which can be done with H₂ is to require by law that hydrogen hobs etc come complete with extractor fan that switches on when any burner is turned on.

          Town gas was over 50% H₂ and the pipes were mostly iron. Obvs it did some damage to them but this could be dealt with. Nowadays far more pipes are made of heavy duty plastic so less problems. In the home, metal pipes can be replaced with copper or even stainless steel ones – they are more expensive but no so much as a heat pump. Gas boilers will also have to be replaced which is more cost but can be done and is cheaper than heat pumps.

          I think the trial you mean was at Winlaton on Tyneside. Think it went fairly well. Think there was supposed to be one in Ellesmere Port recently as well but the residents said no.

          Enjoy the weekend (hic)

          • deepgreen

            Purely coincidentally I got into conversation with a retired North sea oil engineer. I think he was a chemical engineer. I raised the topic of using hydrogen as a substitute for methane. He did the prolonged sucking noise signifying ‘oh dear’. He said that Hydrogen is very difficult to deal with. I hasten to add that he was speaking from experience it’s a very small molecule that leaks very readily. It’s difficult to keep enclosed. It causes embrittlement of steel and iron. I think there would need to be some research into use of copper pipes. The snag with copper is its poor tensile strength. Stainless steel comes in various grade depending on how much chromium and Nickel are in the alloy. The more expensive grades of SS would be required. Technical issues will be resolved given enough time and money but the situation here is time and money limited not to mention the political background where Tory short termists will do everything to scupper genuine debate and solutions. I have no confidence in the current political dither and delay group.
            re town gas. I don’t know the makeup of 19th century pipework but I suspect Lead was common. Iron would be difficult to join and prone to breakages.

          • Lapsed Agnostic

            Thanks for your reply to my (surprisingly coherent) post, DG. Sobered up now. To address your points:

            Helium atoms are even smaller than H₂ molecules. At a couple of my former places of gainful employment, we had a high pressure cylinder of helium (at over 150x atmospheric pressure when full) for the gas chromatograph-mass specs (GC-MS). Despite the GC-MS’s often working 24hrs a day, sometimes the cylinders went for over two years without having to be replaced. So even at high pressures, leakage can be minimal.

            There was some research into the hydrogen embrittlement of various different metals done in the 70’s by NASA (and probably several other studies elsewhere). Haven’t read the whole thing, but the abstract claims that the embrittlement of copper and stainless steel (and aluminium) is ‘negligible’:


            Not sure where your claim that more expensive grades of stainless steel (i.e. with more chromium) will be needed comes from. I doubt whether anyone has done the research into steel alloys with only a small percentage of Cr – that might be sufficient.

            I also doubt whether much lead is used for UK gas pipes: I found something from the US in 2014, which seems to indicate that their mains gas pipelines are mostly either plastic or steel, and most of the steel pipes are not bare (which presumably means that they’re coated with polymer), and so should resist damage from H₂:


            Enjoy the rest of the weekend.

      • S

        Thank you, Lapsed Agnostic, for posting the links.
        Everyone: read them!

        In an ideal world we could have (say) David Mackay debating with (say) Craig about it on TV or radio.

        (To be clear, when I said “scandalous abuse of statistics”, I was referring to the Scottish Greens reporting of the poll.)

        • Lapsed Agnostic

          Thanks for your reply S. Yes people should read Prof Mackay’s book (esp politicians) and him debating our host would be good, except it might not be a good debate as I don’t think they would disagree on much – or much to do with energy supply anyways.

          Enjoy the weekend (hic)

      • Natasha

        Lapsed Agnostic please do some background reading before you make the unsubstantiated claim:-

        “Anyway, the take-home message is: Hydrogen is the answer”

        Supply chain engineers knows this is not possible:-

        1) Hydrogen hopium: Storage

        2) Hydrogen or Electron Economy?

        3) Pursuing the hydrogen economy as a climate solution will be a big mistake

        4) The Hydrogen Hoax: Confessions of a Former Hydrogenist

        5) Hydrogen: The dumbest & most impossible renewable

        Also this series of research articles in Energies journal 2021 spells out why fossil fuels can’t be replaced with solar energy flow harvesting machines i.e. as oil and coal and natural get scarcer and harder to get out the ground humans will return to pre fossil age numbers. This is just a biophysical fact. Please spend the time and you will get an excellent insight into how access to energy dictates practically everything else humans do.

        1) Through the Eye of a Needle: An Eco-Heterodox Perspective on the Renewable Energy Transition.
        by Megan K. Seibert and William E. Rees

        We add to the emerging body of literature highlighting cracks in the foundation of the mainstream energy transition narrative. We offer a tripartite analysis that re-characterizes the climate crisis within its broader context of ecological overshoot, highlights numerous collectively fatal problems with so-called renewable energy technologies, and suggests alternative solutions that entail a contraction of the human enterprise. This analysis makes clear that the pat notion of “affordable clean energy” views the world through a narrow keyhole that is blind to innumerable economic, ecological, and social costs.

        These undesirable “externalities” can no longer be ignored. To achieve sustainability and salvage civilization, society must embark on a planned, cooperative descent from an extreme state of overshoot in just a decade or two. While it might be easier for the proverbial camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for global society to succeed in this endeavor, history is replete with stellar achievements that have arisen only from a dogged pursuit of the seemingly impossible.

        2) Comment on Seibert, M.K.; Rees, W.E. Through the Eye of a Needle: An Eco-Heterodox Perspective on the Renewable Energy Transition by Mark Diesendorf

        3) Reply to Diesendorf, M. Comment on “Seibert, M.K.; Rees, W.E. Through the Eye of a Needle: An Eco-Heterodox Perspective on the Renewable Energy Transition by Megan K. Seibert and William E. Rees

        4) Comment on Seibert, M.K.; Rees, W.E. Through the Eye of a Needle: An Eco-Heterodox Perspective on the Renewable Energy Transition by Vasilis Fthenakis et al

        5) Reply to Fthenakis et al. Comment on “Seibert, M.K.; Rees, W.E. Through the Eye of a Needle: An Eco-Heterodox Perspective on the Renewable Energy Transition by Megan K. Seibert and William E. Rees

        • Lapsed Agnostic

          Thanks for your reply Natasha. Too pissed for any of this at the mo. Won’t end well. Maybe get back to you later.

          Have a good night (hic)

        • Lapsed Agnostic

          I’ve sobered up now Natasha. I have already done a fair bit of background reading, but I’ve also read some of the links you provided. The best one is the second one by David Cebon of the Centre for Sustainable Road Freight, which at least provides some numbers in an attempt to dismiss the hydrogen economy, in favour of heat pumps (or at least it does in some of the links). You might wish to delete it from your list though, as it suggests that it’s perfectly possible to generate enough energy to power Britain using renewables – which of course is correct, but it would be easier and cheaper to use green hydrogen for heating, especially at times when no electricity can be generated from renewables (e.g. cold winter evenings).

          I never said that hydrogen power was particularly practical for cars (just heating). Everywhere in the UK apart from the far north of Scotland, it would probably be best for people to have electric cars run for 8 or 9 months of the year off electricity generated by solar panels on their roofs.

          Thanks again for the links. Enjoy the rest of the weekend.

          • Natasha

            Lapsed Agnostic,

            A) do you wish to become better acquainted with physical reality with respect to Hydrogen (or any other low energy density ‘solar energy flow’ harvesting machine candidate to replace fossil fuels) being capable of scaling up beyond a few % or so of global energy supply?

            B) or do you prefer argue to only to support your existing belief system that “it’s perfectly possible to generate enough energy to power Britain using renewables – which of course is correct.”?

            If A) you do genuinely want to learn, then please read beyond the 2nd of the 10 links I gave to avoid your mistake in B) above.

            If you want numbers to support the claim that hydrogen (and ALL low energy density ‘solar energy flow’ harvesting machine candidates to replace fossil fuels) WILL FAIL TO SCALE UP beyond a few % or so of global energy supply, then just read these two links first (also linked above) :-

            5) Hydrogen: The dumbest & most impossible renewable “Hydrogen tends to make metal brittle. Embrittled metal can create leaks. In a pipeline, it can cause cracking or fissuring, which can result in potentially catastrophic failure. It is a materials problem that has not been solved for decades and may never be solved”.


            1) Through the Eye of a Needle: An Eco-Heterodox Perspective on the Renewable Energy Transition.
            by Megan K. Seibert and William E. Rees

            We add to the emerging body of literature highlighting cracks in the foundation of the mainstream energy transition narrative. We offer a tripartite analysis that re-characterizes the climate crisis within its broader context of ecological overshoot, highlights numerous collectively fatal problems with so-called renewable energy technologies, and suggests alternative solutions that entail a contraction of the human enterprise. This analysis makes clear that the pat notion of “affordable clean energy” views the world through a narrow keyhole that is blind to innumerable economic, ecological, and social costs.

            These undesirable “externalities” can no longer be ignored….


  • Maria Smith

    All your comments seem to make sense, Craig. Generally I agree that it is unreasonable to heat homes over 20 degrees – I loathe overheated homes that you have to remove layers of clothing as soon as you arrive in them! However, older, infirm people tend to feel the cold especially given that they don’t move around so much as we do. I think perhaps a bit more leeway, or caveats, on temperature would be reasonable?

      • Maria Smith

        Ach! I misread your point about temperature. I thought you said it was unreasonable to expect to heat houses over 20 degrees. The point I made was therefore unnecessary! Good article though and thank you for your blog, always intelligent and provides me with another way of thinking about things.

  • Greg Park

    Keir Starmer abandoned his pledge to nationalise energy companies early last year. That’s despite polls consistently showing even a majority of Tory voters want things like energy and rail back in public hands. So we have a democratic choice of governing parties who are both purely committed to appeasing the 1%. I predict we will soon look back wistfully on a time when electricity prices were only double what they are in France.

    • IMcK

      ‘That’s despite polls consistently showing even a majority of Tory voters want things like energy and rail back in public hands’

      Of course entirely consistent with the usual scam – the utilities (or companies) are built up under state ownership, privatised when ripe, run down yielding juicy profits for the privateers, then put back into state ownership for ‘Doctor Who’ style regeneration and the cycle can restart.

        • IMcK

          Not sure which may have completed the full cycle and restarting but the principle applies. More to come.
          What about Rolls Royce: didn’t that go from private to public to private? Also possibly Network Rail (public to private to public)?

  • Stu

    I think you’re correct, there is no way to make such a huge transition without de-coupling it completely from normal capitalistic processes.

    As more folk become aware of the consequences of the 2008 Climate Change Act, and just how much financial ‘damage’ it is going to mean (both for the State and for them personally), political support for energy transition issues have steadily tanked. You can see both Labour and the Cons rolling back, yet trying to still frame their positions as being compliant with a ‘Net-Zero’ ideology. So UK energy policy remains a basket-case, and 25 years of the CCC on the statute books have been totally wasted.

    Oil, coal & gas (globally) are here to stay, unless you remove electricity generation out of capital markets (and make it incredibly cheap) the vast majority of lower income folks will simply reject & resist any further impetus to change. They simply cannot afford it, even if they agree that fossil fuels need to be phased out. The other elephant in the room is solar & wind infrastructure, much of which is coming towards the end of its effective lifespan & will need to be de-commissioned soon. On that point we are talking millions of tons of material which is difficult to recycle, or dispose of easily and effectively.

    The only answer to this conundrum has been – and always will be – nuclear.

  • Ebenezer Scroggie

    Twenty years ago the 1940s timber framed and timber clad Council houses in a nearby village (off the gas grid) were fitted with air source heat pump systems. It was a disaster!

    It just so happened that the next winter was unusually cold with night-time temps of -13°C rising to -7°C for an hour or two around noon.

    It turned out that the damned things produced no heat whatsoever below -8°C. The Council rushed a couple of those castor-mounted gas heaters to each one of the houses and provided an ample supply of large Calor gas bottles.

    The problem with those gas heaters is that they produced prodigious quantities of water vapour. Of course that water vapour condensed onto the inner walls and onto all of the surface areas of the interstitial spaces within the timber structure. Come the thaw, all that water thoroughly soaked the entire timber structure. Then after a very warm summer the timber was deeply penetrated by fungus and other forms of rot.

    The remedial work to replace the timbers cost a vast fortune and several of the houses had to be demolished as the cost of repair greatly exceed the value of the houses.

    The Law of Unintended Consequences had struck again.

    On the other hand, I must say that I have a deep heat well and am delighted with it. For an input of 2kW of electrical energy it outputs a net of 7kW of heat. The only two problems I have had are power cuts (but that buggers up almost all form of central heating) and the fact that after a month or two of continuous running at full blast the rock formation around the well does cool significantly and the output drops to less than half of normal.

  • David Murdoch

    Excellent post Craig. Can’t argue with any of it. I would only add that societally we must regard nuclear more favourably.

  • Peter C

    Well I thoroughly agree that first-steps-first should be a national programme of getting all buildings insulated to high standards — and that should be fully funded by government. This is an essential response to people being able to afford heat their own homes.

    Craig said, “I realise this will attract some climate change denial in the comments…”

    Here I disagree with you and think you are actually (unawares I suspect) being quite bigoted towards people that have looked at the evidence presented on so-called human-generated global warming and come to the conclusion that it just is not happening. That does not make such people “climate change deniers” and stating so is just being a bigot (which in all other areas so far I don’t believe you are).

    If you look at this video by a Nobel Prize winner you might get something to think about:
    Nobel Laureate Smashes the Global Warming Hoax

    To so dogmatically hold to your opinion on human-generated climate change you need to, at the least, do some basic research into contrary opinion that provides empirical evidence as to why man-made climate change is just not happening. There is no hard empirical evidence to support the contention that it does — it’s fake propaganda promoted to support a political agenda, it doesn’t have any scientific validity at all.

    • Anthony

      You are making a big show of denying it, totally and without equivocation. Yet if anyone dare term you a denier they are bigoted and dogmatic?

      Sounds reasonable!

      • Peter C

        What is reasonable is to look at the empirical evidence and be guided by that. Either yourself and/or Craig, in the interests of understanding the issue, are going to do that or you are not. If not, then I would say you are in thrall to a political and pseudo-science ideology that is not based on scientific empirical evidence — you are in thrall to a political and pseudo-scientific fraud. It is you that holds to that ideology totally and without equivocation — the more so if you won’t even look at or attempt to follow the empirical evidence.

        Throwing around the phrase human-caused “climate change denier” is done to neutralise people who often do do some research and arrive to a different conclusion, lead by scientifically arrived at empirical evidence, from the predominant position. The neutralisation technique is often done by clever people, as Craig does in this instance, without any self-awareness at all. It is a throw-away phrase, delivered parrot-like, used to prevent debate and good science, which is why it shouldn’t be being used at all.

        It really doesn’t take much effort to read and/or view the evidence, some of it given by Nobel Laureates, that point out that human-caused global warming based on CO₂ emissions is a fraud.

        • glenn_nl

          These people who “do their own research” and find themselves denying global warming… could you explain what research they have actually done?

          Do they go drilling for ice cores, measure CO₂ levels themselves over long periods, look at the relationship between CO₂ and temperatures, and so on, or do they simply look at a few blogs, or disinformation _heavily_ promoted by the massive interests in keeping people in doubt and denial?

          While the doubt and denial continues, these same interests get to make massive profits from the extraction industry. It helps politicians excuse their inaction, and provides cover for their cosy relationships with these same polluting industries.

          • Peter C

            “Do they go drilling for ice cores, measure CO₂ levels themselves over long periods, look at the relationship between CO₂ and temperatures, and so on…”

            Yes, people that do the research include conclusions based on such empirical data: it wouldn’t be science if they weren’t doing that. You cannot reach conclusions on so-called human-caused global warming because of CO₂ without looking at data that covers geologic time-scales. There is no doubt that climate change does occur, it occurs continually — what is at issue is that humans, via CO₂ emissions, are responsible for the current situation in which global warming is, or is not, occurring. There is no evidence that global warming because of CO₂ is currently occurring. There is even less evidence that the average temperature of Earth is linked to CO₂ — that is very much a faulty conclusion based on pseudo-science.

            From the point of view of the so-called ‘greenhouse house effect’ water vapour in the atmosphere is a far more important variable than CO₂. And water vapour can be shown to affect global warming, not CO₂.

            Should be noted that from the record over millennia the Earth was a much more plant covered planet when CO₂ levels were much higher than is true of current times. It should also be noted that this is true for periods in which the Earth was somewhat colder and somewhat warmer than current times.

            There is a good book written by the ecologist Dr. Patrick Moore (ex-president of Greenpeace) called Fake Invisible Catastrophes and Threats of Doom which covers a lot of this stuff very well. I would recommend you try to get a hold of a copy and read it. It might expand your awareness of what is actually going on with the ideology you seem significantly attached to.

          • glenn_nl

            Peter C: “There is no evidence that global warming because of CO₂ is currently occurring. There is even less evidence that the average temperature of Earth is linked to CO₂ — that is very much a faulty conclusion based on pseudo-science.

            You might well in all honesty think that, but it’s rather different to claim that these claims are based on “no evidence” as a point of fact.

            It’s not actually difficult at all to prove that CO₂ acts as a greenhouse gas.


            Take a look at the above – there’s even a simple experiment you can try for yourself at home to prove the point.

            I am not sure why you (and a couple of others) seem to think that the warming effects of water vapour and CO₂ have to be mutually exclusive, to the point that demonstrating water vapour has an effect therefore means CO₂ has none.

            On the contrary, this is all part of a feedback loop. Warmer air can hold increased moisture. More CO₂ leads to warmer air.

            Thanks for the recommendation on the book, but I have generally found books by denialists an unrewarding use of my time. I wasted a fair bit of time reading “The sceptical environmentalist” a few years back. It did actually “increase [my] awareness of what is really going on”, because I still see the same hollow tricks being foisted on a confused public through a media which at best does ‘both-sides-ism’, at the behest of massive fossil fuel interests, by some willfully dishonest charlatans that dare to call themselves scientists.

            Speaking of which, that Dr Patrick Moore of yours appears to be a darling of right-wing instructions and think tanks, and has the utter gall to say the likes of Greenpeace sold out for all that hard-left cash that we know socialist institutions are all awash with.

        • Robert Hughes

          Spot-on comments, Peter.

          See also – “Covid denier”; “Anti-Vaxxer”; “Anti-Science” and the current number one ie “Putin Lover”.
          Thanks for linking that video. I´m inclined to take the opinion of a Nobel laureate over hysterical (in both senses) hypocrites like Al Gore.

          • Drew Anderson

            How about the opinions of: Syukuro Manabe, Klaus Hasselmann and Giorgio Parisi? They won the Nobel prize for Physics in 2021, for their work on climate modelling.

            The Nobel laureate that the OP is citing is most likely to be Ivar Giaever. He won the Physics prize, shared, in 1973 in an unrelated field; quantum physics.

            I’ll go with the up-to-date, recent winners who actually work in climate science.

          • Peter C

            @Drew Anderson,

            “They won the Nobel prize for Physics in 2021, for their work on climate modelling.”

            Climate modelling is not empirical science. It is done by coding computer programs defining a ‘model’ and then pumping speculative data into the model. And, as with all things computer: garbage in, garbage out. If you program a computer with code that says CO₂ is a global warming gas and then pump data into it it should come as no surprise when the computer confirms what you told it to do with the data. Also be aware that propaganda surrounding global warming is everywhere and even the judges of the Nobel Prize are not immune to its influence.

    • Natasha

      Climate change is a symptom NOT a cause of anything. As such it is UTTERLY irrelevant what the cause is, or is not. Why?

      Because humans will have used up all our one time gift of fossil fuels in a few decades or so. Farming for 8billion people uses up roughly 80 times the area of France, returning all that land back to wilderness will reverse all anthropic CO₂ emissions since we began burning fossil fuels, in a few short decades, because plants absorb and store CO₂ in their biomass if there aren’t 8 billion humans harvesting it back out into the atmosphere.

      Further, so called “renewable” solar energy flow harvesting machines (wind mills, solar PV & concentrated) ALL rely entirely on fossil fuel inputs to mine, refine, distribute materials and components, manufacture, build out, connect to grids, store and distribute energy, and all the end use machines also built, and the whole lot recycled. NONE of this be done with electricity, beyond a few demonstration efforts that CAN NOT scale up much beyond a few % of global energy supply: Solar ~2%; Wind ~ 3%; other renewables ~ 2%; traditional biomass ~ 6%; Oil ~30%; Coal ~ 25%; Gas ~22%; Nuclear ~4%; Hydro ~6%.

      Also, building sand and helium are already running out and you can’t build f*ck all without those inputs.

      This series of research articles in Energies journal 2021 spells out why fossil fuels can’t be replaced with solar energy flow harvesting machines i.e. as oil and coal and natural get scarcer and harder to get out the ground humans will return to pre fossil age numbers i.e. by end of this century there will be fewer than 1 billion humans left alive, same as in ~1750s before we started burning coal. This is just a biophysical fact.

      Please spend the time and you will get an excellent insight into how access to energy dictates practically everything else humans do.

      The ONLY remaining question is how are ‘we’ going to manage this biophysically inevitable devastating de-growth over the next couple of generations of humans on our lonely ‘pale blue dot’?

      1) Through the Eye of a Needle: An Eco-Heterodox Perspective on the Renewable Energy Transition.
      by Megan K. Seibert and William E. Rees

      ABSTRACT: We add to the emerging body of literature highlighting cracks in the foundation of the mainstream energy transition narrative. We offer a tripartite analysis that re-characterizes the climate crisis within its broader context of ecological overshoot, highlights numerous collectively fatal problems with so-called renewable energy technologies, and suggests alternative solutions that entail a contraction of the human enterprise. This analysis makes clear that the pat notion of “affordable clean energy” views the world through a narrow keyhole that is blind to innumerable economic, ecological, and social costs.

      These undesirable “externalities” can no longer be ignored. To achieve sustainability and salvage civilization, society must embark on a planned, cooperative descent from an extreme state of overshoot in just a decade or two. While it might be easier for the proverbial camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for global society to succeed in this endeavor, history is replete with stellar achievements that have arisen only from a dogged pursuit of the seemingly impossible.

      2) Comment on Seibert, M.K.; Rees, W.E. Through the Eye of a Needle: An Eco-Heterodox Perspective on the Renewable Energy Transition by Mark Diesendorf

      3) Reply to Diesendorf, M. Comment on “Seibert, M.K.; Rees, W.E. Through the Eye of a Needle: An Eco-Heterodox Perspective on the Renewable Energy Transition by Megan K. Seibert and William E. Rees

      4) Comment on Seibert, M.K.; Rees, W.E. Through the Eye of a Needle: An Eco-Heterodox Perspective on the Renewable Energy Transition by Vasilis Fthenakis et al

      5) Reply to Fthenakis et al. Comment on “Seibert, M.K.; Rees, W.E. Through the Eye of a Needle: An Eco-Heterodox Perspective on the Renewable Energy Transition by Megan K. Seibert and William E. Rees

  • Uriel Fanelli

    Heat pumps are not producing any heat. They move it, from outside to inside, despite the fact out is colder. This is why they need some energy to move heat. The ratio between the amount of heat they need to do so, and the amount they move, is named as “omega” in most of the countries.

    So, if the omega is 3, it means with 1Kwh you move 3Kwh to your home.

    Here, the point of winter is, the omega varies. In perfect conditions, you can move up to 6Kwh from outside to inside, spending 1Kwh. When is winter and outside is cold, then it becomes harder and the omega decreases.

    This is why, air-2-air is not suggested in some countries. Could be better to do “underground to air”, meaning that externally the pump takes the energy cooling the ground, and not air. And there are many other ways to optimize this. I am using them in my house in the mountains. When the external side was open air, blocks of ices were forming on the fan, so that the pump had to reverse, and then all was lost.

    Then I moved the pumps inside a box, outside, I was using previously for stove wood. That worked better, cause neither rain or snow had a chance to stay on the pump. Still, from side to side, frozen fan was an issue. The final solution was to switch to ground element: a hole drilled in the ground, with pipes taking away heat from the ground. This works perfectly, with a little issue, to kill all trees in the range of 3/4 meters.

    So we should be aware, heat pumps are all about experience and competence of the installer. This may change everything.

  • glenn_nl

    A heatpump appears to require about 14KW for operation, about the same as a decent electric shower. But we run showers on maximum for only a few minutes at a time. If everyone ran them in my street constantly, I’m not sure the local transformer would be up to the job.

    Add in the electric car, which appears to be the only form of transport this government is considering at all for transportation, which charges for many hours after work – while we’re all at home running the heatpumps. This takes about 10KW or so too, for quite a few hours.

    We’ll be doing all-electric cooking, of course – no gas – at the same time.

    I noticed that when the misses is taking a 10KW shower, the household electricity drops by about 6 volts. So on a back of a fag packet here, R=V/I…. the resistance of the cable under the road to the substation is about 0.6 ohms. Power loss is I^2 x R, so…

    Car = 40 amps
    Heatpump = 60 amps
    Cooker = 20 amps

    That’s a multi-hour power loss of 120^2 x 0.6 = 8640 watts of heat from the cable under the road, just to my house. That will go up a fair bit in summer, when resistance increases. We might be in for some hot summers too, I hear!

    Will the transmission network be up for such a demand? Can we generate all this power (including losses of up to 10KW per house, before it gets to the meter)? Has anyone thought about this at all in government?

    Now, I think I’ll take that shower…

    • IMcK

      All a bit wide of the mark. Briefly:

      Domestic heat pump – 14KW is more like the heat output (although this would be a big unit) not the power (normally electrical) input. Input is more like 3 KW in ‘heat pump mode’ (ie not direct electrical heating mode).

      Volt drop to property would be predominantly in supply cable to property from where teed off local network but nevertheless there is a power consumption due to volt drop:
      For 6V drop for 10KW load (approx calculation):
      Current = Power/Voltage (I = P/V) = 10,000Kw / 250V = 40 Amps
      Resistance of cabling R = V/I = 6/40 = 0.15 ohms

      So taking the heat pump which is running (semi) continuously in winter (3 KW approx 12A):
      Power loss in cable is I (squared) R = 12 x 12 x 0.15 = 22 Watts approx

      Yes this will increase proportionately for additional loads (so for a 10KW shower, cable heating loss is 73 Watts) but, of course, these loads are more intermittent

      However the comment re whether the electricity network will handle the additional loads is very relevant. This includes primary generation, national and local distribution, energy storage (for conversion to electricity), balancing of supply/demand with the added burden of intermittent generation. Far from an exhaustive list and each one a big issue (always financially and often environmentally) if the network is to undergo the energy revolutions liberally spouted. I suggest there is a general complacency re the availability of the electrical supply as if it just happens by magic.

      • IMcK

        Oops wide of the mark myself.
        Correction – cable heating loss will increase disproportionately with increasing power since related to square of current so for 10kW load, cable loss is more like 240W (40 x 40Amp x 0.15 ohms)

        • glenn_nl

          My mistake, I misread the specs for heat pump power requirements. 3KW input is much more like it. Resistance also 0.15 ohms, not 0.6 .

          OK, so 3KW for the heat pump. Car charging stations go from 7KW to 22KW. Cooking all-electric can count for another 5KW, and possibly a shower for brief periods at 10KW. That’s 25- 40KW, around 100 – 160 amps.

          I^2 . R = 1500w – 3,840w in heat losses.

          Not _that_ wide of the mark, surely? I was out by a factor of two or three, admittedly.

    • deepgreen

      “Add in the electric car, which appears to be the only form of transport this government is considering at all for transportation”,
      I think there is an indication that pedal transport may become more popular and it is being promoted at government level.

      • glenn_nl

        Unfortunately, I don’t think that they have much interest here. I would be happy to hear otherwise, but sustainable transport was slashed a couple of years back, and there appears to be nothing happening since.

        We get councils cynically painting a line down the side of a main road from time to time and pretending it’s a cycle path, but that’s about it. I love cycling, and certainly don’t regard myself as a wuss on two wheels, but really don’t like doing it in the UK. There’s a positive antipathy for bikes there, encouraged by all this nonsense about a ‘war’ between cycles and cars by the gutter-press, thugs like Clarkson and so on.

        Mass transport attracts no interest from the government at all, so our already overcrowded and badly maintained roads should carry a lot more traffic, with much heavier electric cars (which themselves seem to be steadily increasing in size).

  • Fazal Majid

    My parents in France replaced their 40 year old boiler with a heat pump 2 years ago, replaced their gas hob with induction plates and got rid of their gas hookup entirely. They couldn’t be happier, but of course that’s because France had the wisdom to go for nuclear (although the Socialist government of François Hollande in hock to the Greens unwisely closed some plants and blocked the replacement programme, causing the problems of last year.

    The UK had its indigenous nuclear technology, but short-termist thinking opted to go for cheaper but unreliable renewables:

    Furthermore, in 2017 one Kwasi Karteng, then minister of industry, decreed the Market’s benevolent ability to provide must not be questioned and allowed Centrica to shutter the insufficiently profitable gas storage facility in the depleted Rough gas field, which accounted for 40% of the UK’s storage capacity. Oops!

    The UK has some of the most overpriced yet worst-quality housing stock in Western Europe. The feeble subsidies for insulation were slashed by David Cameron, eager as he was to cut out the “green crap”. Conversely, more than 50% of my parents’ heat pump cost was subsidized by the French government, and they have generous subsidies for insulation projects as well.

    So yes, insulating Britain should be a priority, as should be ramping up nuclear power (and not the inefficient and unproven Rolls-Royce small modular reactors the government thinks will be its salvation). Electricity storage like the Coire Glas pumped hydro facility should also be greenlit and expedited. The UK grid is woefully inadequate at transmitting Scottish-generated power to the main demand sinks in South England, almost as if the Deep English state has already priced in a hard Scottish Independence in its long-term planning:

  • Robert Dyson

    I had my house externally insulated in 2012. It has proved as good as I expected. I used to have mould in poorly ventilated corners, now totally gone. My gripe at the time was that I had to pay 20% VAT when house builders would pay only 5% VAT. I gave talks on the process to promote it. However you see climate change, having an improved home environment with less energy use can have no sane objections. It has to be done by people, providing jobs everywhere in the country and improving local economies in a wholesome way. It involves some low skill work giving people with little training a chance to work. From this level of skill more training can be given to those who show aptitude thus generating an increasingly trained workforce. There will be need to manufacture materials and some maintenance (none for me so far). It is win-win in every way. Of course there is an upfront cost. Just as the government gives subsidies to fossil fuel companies it could give subsidies and grants for insulation work. I guess the political problem is there are no big business kickbacks in this, too much real power to the people.

    • Bramble

      My home is fairly new and very well insulated, though I feel the cold and even with three layers on I need to turn my heating up to about 20 (my ambition is to keep it at 18) to feel comfortable on very cold days. However, my main problem is the heat. This June my excellent insulation turned my living room and bedroom into very uncomfortable boxes indeed, despite all the curtain drawing, window opening, closing etc I did. Extreme heat is as unhealthy as extreme cold and excellent insulation won’t help when the heat dome settles its lethal behind over us. (Incidentally, conservation areas often impose planning restrictions which don’t allow people to install things outside their homes: heat pumps, solar panels etc are frowned on in such places. Change is needed here too.)

      • Robert Dyson

        Insulation is insulation – it diminishes heat transfer both out and in. Think of your refrigerator. Without the insulation your rooms would have been even hotter with high outside temperature and intense sunlight. Extremes by definition are unhealthy. However there are more deaths due to cold than due to heat. Check figure 3 in but note the scales are different for blue and red (I wonder why? surely not to mislead) and it shows deaths from cold are hugely more than from heat.

  • ian thomson

    Craig, you asked for comments so here goes using your numbering:

    1. If we had started to respond to climate change when the problem first became clear I would agree to your assertion of the reasonableness of 20°C. but at this late stage we have to turn down the heating and put another jumper on.

    2. Heat pumps are certainly more efficient than other forms of heating and supplying hot water is clearly better with a gas boiler. As you concede, some place for fossil fuel use (your points F&G) would make it be unthinkable to suggest that gas could still supply our hot water especially as much of the complication of heat pump installations lies in attempts to reconcile hot water provision with the inadequacies of the heat pump for this task.

    3. So many talking heads make the mistake of linking heat pumps with insulation. This is to suggest that gas heating didn’t need as much insulation as heat pumps whereas with more insulation gas boilers would not be as polluting as they are. Insulation as a need stands alone independent of the heating method. Indeed there are well-insulated “eco houses” around which don’t need any real heating at all.

    6. There is a possibility that lowering people’s bills will lead to them turning the thermostat up thus nullifying, at least in part, the energy savings and commensurate pollution.

    12. The overloading of the electricity grid will be exacerbated by the move to electric cars which will require even more infrastructure to support. Even supplying all our electricity from renewable sources will require this. I would be much happier to hear some talk of us using less energy but feel this is unlikely to occur in my lifetime.

    When listening to this debate I can’t help referring back to the Lucas Plan where heat pumps were proposed, along with other products, as an alternative to producing military hardware in an ailing Lucas Aerospace in the 1970s. As this was proposed by the unions it was completely unacceptable to management. If we had listened then we would not be in so much trouble now.

  • Joe

    What people seem not to be noticing is that in order to furnish however millions of households with some new technology, there will have to be massive emissions. Stuff needs to be mined, manufacturing uses emissions, shipping and so on. But we are in a state of crisis and every bit of fossils we burn is contributing to the killing of the natural systems of the planet.

    What is the logic in proposing to undertake an enormous industrial project when what we need to do is stop burning and stop polluting?

    • Stevie Boy

      The government won’t fund a major transition like heat pumps, EVs, Nuclear, etc. They’ll provide a lot of talk and some insultingly low levels of seed funding, they expect the private sector to fund the changes.
      The private sector won’t fund a major transition unless there is profit in it for them.
      Therefore, the safe conclusion is that this is all hot air and won’t happen nationally. It will be picked up by some better off, niche green supporters but the public will not and cannot afford this unneeded lunacy.

      Making everything electric is madness, diversification of supplies gives the individual and the state better security and a better chance of surviving the inevitable failures of a single source of supply.

    • Stu

      Hence why the attempt to move from oil/gas/coal to ‘renewables’ solves nothing, even if everyone were to accept the premise that rising CO₂ is pushing the climate to a dangerous place. The ‘Great Energiewende’ is simply moving the problem into new areas, and solving nothing in the process. I suspect it was always more concerned with redistributing wealth into new hands, and politicians doing ‘just enough’ to say they were doing ‘something’. But that is beginning to change as renewables (and the push for EVs etc) are becoming politically toxic issues as the costs & deadlines for compliance get closer…… was always bound to happen.

  • David Brown

    A couple of thoughts without going in to too much depth.

    1) Heat pumps can be added to existing gas-fired installations without too much difficulty. When the heat pump is struggling, the gas system can kick in. No need for new radiators. The heat pump can cope for most of the time.

    2) Good old-fashioned storage heaters can soak up electricity in the day and release heat when required. Storage heaters contain cheap bricks, batteries expensive lithium. A great use for excess solar power.

    3) An absolutely free policy change is to require all new builds to have south-facing roofs.

    • Stevie Boy

      My thoughts/(mis)understandings:
      1) Heat pumps usually require new piping and radiators and work best if underfloor.
      2) Never come across a storage heater that provided adequate heat, always had to use auxilliary heating.
      3) Not sure geography and housing plots could support this, and to what end.

      4) Policy change required: let those who want Heat Pumps, EVs, etc. have them. Leave everyone else alone.

  • Will McMorran

    The answer is ‘3’ and ‘d’. Physics requires that old masonry/brick buildings are insulated by means of a new external skin with new triple glazed windows. In this way, heat within the substantial thermal mass of the old walls is stored, maintaining a steady internal temperature winter and summer. This also avoids interfering with the home interior. Some roof eaves modifications would be necessary and an external insulated lining fitted down to foundation level. So sophisticated and visually appealing are modern prefabricated façade rain screen systems that, at a stroke, the majority of the UK’s old homes would be visibly modernised and hardly require any heating.

    • Pears Morgaine

      Old buildings (I live in one) need to ‘breathe, covering the outside with cladding is a bad structurally and aesthetically.

      It’s not desirable or feasible to make a house airtight, there has to be some ventilation.

    • Stevie Boy

      Most hydrogen is produced as a by product of gas/oil production (brown/blue). Hydrogen is less energy efficient than natural gas and can cause damage to existing pipework. What is the point ?

    • Ebenezer Scroggie

      The bond between the H₂ and O molecules of DiHydrogen Monoxide is incredibly hard to break.

      You have to put more energy into the action of breaking that bond than you will get out of burning the H₂.

      Then there’s the problem that the Hydrogen atom is so bloody small. The pesky thing loves to wiggle through the walls of pipelines and other containment structures.

  • no-one important

    Fully prepared to consider the unnecessary expense of replacing my perfectly adequate two-year old gas boiler with a heat pump system providing the following criteria are applied:

    1) Every single MP of every party, every senior civil servant, and every quangocrat has one installed at both their London and private homes and all fossil fuel systems removed.
    2) This shall be done entirely from their own income and may not be claimed through expenses. The same goes for the attendant running costs.
    3) They shall do this for a minimum of two winters so that the value of these systems may be accurately assessed.

    I would go further and insist that the same people should be compelled to exchange their fossil-fuelled vehicles for electric powered ones – again from their own purse – and also be forbidden to use aircraft where an equivalent rail journey is available.

    As a humble squaddie back in the day, the officers we respected most were the ones who led by example, the ones who would and could do everything they asked of us, the PBI. Modern politicians would do well to follow the example of those fine officers.

  • AG

    if I may suggest for further reading: the 8 part series about energy transition and climate change on naked capitalism.

    “Energy Destinies is a multi-part series examining the role of energy, demand and supply dynamics, the shift to renewables, the transition, its relationship to emissions and possible pathways Parts 1, 2, 3,, 4, 5 and 6 looked at patterns of demand and supply over time, renewable sources, energy storage, economics of renewables, the energy transition and the inter-action between energy policy and emissions. The last two parts outline the energy endgame. Part 7 examined the framework that will shape events. The final part looks at possible trajectories.”

    Last part:
    part 8

  • Jamie Shepherd

    c) should be a)

    The cost of electricity hike since the Ukraine war is the biggest rip-off ever foisted on the British people. It should have been a spike, quickly reversed when gas prices came back down. Instead, we have seen one pitiful decrease, leaving us to pay our fuel bills twice over relative to the continent. This explains ALL of the hyper-inflation. Everything we pay for has an embodied energy cost. The idea punted by the MSM that you can control this recent inflation with interest rates is balderdash. It’s a smokescreen for allowing the private energy companies to get mega-rich off our straining backs. We need to make energy use more efficient, but the only way that’s possible is for households to have money left at the end of the month to pay for all the tech. We need an actual political party we can vote for to adopt a policy of full nationalisation of energy generation.

      • George S Gordon

        So it seems we CAN decouple the price of one source of energy from the much vaunted international market that (they say) controls our supply of energy no matter what the source. If only we could do the same with cheap renewable energy, i.e. wind.

        Put all the arguments about supply variability, baseload etc, to one side. If we could benefit from the cost of energy from wind, even if only some of the time, it might be a game changer.

        PS: It seems likely (obvious?) that the heat pump proposal by Patrick Harvie assumes we can decouple wind energy price, and probably assumes very high availability – and can justify neither.

  • Ebenezer Scroggie

    I agree that we should be greatly expanding nuclear power generating capacity, but that industry has one catastrophic flaw.

    It’s a matter of botched PR and massive loss of public confidence.

    Quite apart from the fact that it was never going to be “too cheap to meter”, the safety case was monstrously overstated. We were told that the odds against nuclear accident were a hundred thousand to one.

    The extent and incipient potential consequences of the Windscale fire was somewhat hushed up at the time and the MSM co-operated with the government on national security grounds. It wasn’t until decades later that we discovered just how serious the situation had been.

    Then there was Three Mile Island. In PR terms it was dreadfully inconvenient that it more or less co-oincided with an immensely successful fictional movie called China Syndrome. No amount of PR wonkery can overcome the damage to public trust that was caused by that accident.

    Then there was the biggie. The Ukrainian accident at Chernobyl. Massive clouds of radionucleotides and other toxins spread right across the whole of Europe. Worst of all was the Ukrainian lack of candour and intellectual honesty in not releasing any truthful information until it was dragged out of them by the half dozen or so European countries who had irrefutable proof that something truly dreadful had occurred.

    Once again, world opinion, amongst us laymen anyway, was severely shaken and the PR damage is probably irreparable.

    Then there was another biggie: Fukushima. Seeing that hugely heavy lid of the “containment” building being blown sky high was profoundly shocking for hundreds of millions of people around the world, even though the explosion was actually a hydrogen explosion and not a Hiroshima job.

    I know nothing about PR, but I suspect that the nuclear power industry’s PR status is unsaveable. Too many lies.

    That is, IMO, immensely detrimental to mankind because nuclear power (even before we start fantasising about fission power in a couple of decades) is what mankind (and the planet, to an extent) really needs as a major clean source of energy.

    It’s interesting to compare and contrast that with the oil & gas industry. Despite dozens of catastrophic accidents going right back to Sea Gem and Flixborough and Ekofisk and Aleksander Kjaeland and Piper Alpha and Deepwater Horizon, that industry gets a pretty easy ride. I think that’s because the oilpatch never pretended that it was clean or safe. Neither did the coal industry, until that prick Trump started his tautological nonsense about “clean coal”.

    In summary, nuke power is the way to go, but it just ain’t going to happen because the world’s laymen have been lied to too much and too often and for too long. The generally adopted policy of ‘Don’t frighten the horses’ backfired on them big time and covered them in soot for a lifetime or two.

    • Pears Morgaine

      Feeble attempt to blame Ukraine for Chernobyl when the country was part of the Soviet Union and it was the apparatchiks in Moscow who were calling the shots. It was a Russian design which contained numerous safety flaws, 17 were built and 8 are still in operation, all inside Russia although some safety improvements have been made.

      • Republicofscotland

        Next you’ll be saying that the Ukrainian forces weren’t shelling the ZNPP Europe’s largest nuclear power station.

      • Natasha

        Chernobyl blew up not because of any “safety flaws” but because the operators were conducting a badly thought out stress test, the meltdown occurred during a safety experiment.

        Ironically, on April 25, 1986 Chernobyl staff were conducting an experiment to make the power plant safer.

        In the event of a power failure, fission would continue but the reactor would still need power to run the water pumps. The backup diesel generators used by the Soviets took a full minute to spin up. Soviet scientists felt that minute-long gap was a disaster waiting to happen and wanted to use some of the residual spin from the powered-down nuclear turbine to bridge the gap.

        The night of the experiment, the workers disabled the emergency core cooling system, local automatic control system, and the emergency power reduction system. In the event of a nuclear meltdown, the plant’s computers were designed to sink the control rods into the reactor to completely shutdown fission. Chernobyl’s workers bypassed this system, took manual control over the rods, and had pulled most of the 211 control rods out of the reactor.

        Safety standards at the time required a minimum of 28 rods in the core. The workers only left 18.

    • Stevie Boy

      Spot on.
      It is a major PR failure but also, IMO, there are two issues to consider:
      One, the nuclear power generating industry needs to be completely separated from the bomb-making industry. It’s primarily the bomb-makers that are responsible for dictating the technology used and it’s the bomb-makers that are responsible for a lot of the historic waste and pollution problems.
      Two, Windscale, Three Mile Island and Chernobyl are all really old technology, i.e. 50s/60s. Engineering has moved on and there are lessons that should have been learned! The current crop of UK generators are going to be decades out of date before they ever come on line. The current design lifecycle is always going to deliver problems because each new generator is essentially an old prototype. SMRs are the way forward, technically and economically.
      C, Fukushima. What twat authorised the building of this plant in a geologically active area without adequate protections? Don’t throw baby out with the bathwater.

      • IMcK

        ‘SMRs are the way forward, technically and economically.’

        A bold statement and I would suggest with little understanding. I do not know of any definitions for either ‘small’ or ‘modular’ in the SMR context. However I would suggest the only proven examples for industrial electricity generation are as the Russian ship-based type – no doubt based upon military type reactors using highly enriched fuel and with limited built-in safety features. Development of SMRs for commercial electricity generation are some way away even if they were to prove appropriate.

        ‘C, Fukushima. What twat authorised the building of this plant in a geologically active area without adequate protections?’

        The issue here was the tsunami – the reactor tripped on the earthquake (as per design) but the tsunami subsequently flooded and took out of service the main standby generators leaving the plant vulnerable. The blame can be put at the failure to protect the generators from flooding – not a difficult task – put them in a sealed building. This is a routine thing to do for nuclear safety, i.e. provide in-depth safety for safety related plant especially where it can be readily done (yes there’s an acronym for it). The site staff would have been well aware of this issue and the regulator should have resolved the matter – no doubt corruption was at play.

          • IMcK

            Having scanned the article it hasn’t radically changed my thoughts. SMRs seem more appropriate for niche purposes eg floating generators, heat generation for desalination, remote locations, underground units etc. The UK network is more appropriate for significant generation in limited places benefiting from economy of scale. I suggest it is neither appropriate nor likely that small units would be installed at new locations in the UK.

            Nuclear reactors require significant back-up facilities specific to the reactor types (fuel manufacturing, reprocessing etc). They require significant approval routes – appropriate locations, ensuring adequate safety systems etc. Locations require sufficient water supply, grid connection, avoidance of built up areas (preferably). ‘One-offs’ are not really appropriate.

            It is also easy to postulate installation of multiple SMRs in a single location based on a consideration of quick installation but I suggest an analysis of the pros and cons based on the above mentioned issues (and many others) is not likely to bode in favour.

  • Sven

    Surely a better system, and one which would be more practicable for older homes and flats, would be to generate the electricity centrally and distribute it to storage heaters within the dwellings.
    This obviates the need for a mechanical heat pump (which does itself require regular maintenance and has a limited lifespan, somewhere around 15-20 years I believe). These pumps, if air exchange, are not terribly well suited to harsh Scottish winters, create a fair amount of noise when in operation and do require some square feet of exterior space.

    • David Warriston

      I write from a 21 storey apartment block in the east of Moscow where the water is heated at a central location and drawn off by individual households as required. The radiator heat is controlled centrally so if you want more heat then you have to buy an additional appliance. The cost of heating is low, usually embedded in the service charges. Every flat has a water meter to measure the amount drawn off for cooking, showers etc. Again, by UK standards, the cost is very low. This system clearly has its roots in the Soviet era and it works well so far as I have seen over the years. Local, heating and pumping stations did exist in Scotland in the past- Glenrothes new town used this system when first developed. By contrast, one of the cardinal sins I recall from my Scottish childhood was ‘leaving the immerser on.’ after taking a bath.

      Russian summers are very hot ( it was around 35C today) so the radiator heating is shut off then and the system flushed out. The problem of harsh winters when the mercury can plunge to -30C is recognised by the system: no one should freeze due to being unable to afford to turn on a radiator. Yet the problem of draughty houses in a damp, windy country like Scotland has never been properly addressed, a country where it is often necessary to turn on some heating even on a summer evening. An independent Scotland with nationalised utilities could begin to tackle the problem of Scottish houses which all my visiting Russian friends consider to be too cold to sit in for long. They do not agree that 20C is judged enough to heat a living room.

  • DiggerUK

    Our host believes “schemes that threaten to land households with massive and unrealistic transition costs are leading to an upsurge in climate change denial”
    What he fails to point out are the voices who have consistently questioned the upsurge in climate change alarmism.

    The arguments over ‘the science being settled’ have been challenged since the claims of the pseudoscientists first aired. It has got to such a ridiculous level that a physicist Nobel prize winner, Dr. John Clauser, gets the cancellation treatment for speaking out on the issue, arguing in defence of the scientific method.

    Winter is only four months away, those who argue for NetZero may get an easy ride again if it is another mild winter. But if the lights go out, and the boiler doesn’t spark up it could lead to a few questions being asked…_

  • GFL

    It’s a fact that a healthy population is worth billions to the economy, with that in mind, it’s important that people can stay warm in winter without the stress of astronomical energy bills.
    Is it not possible to secure a cheap and reliable energy source, let’s say from what is currently our enemy, call it Brit-Rus energy keep it well away from the money junkies, and to hell with the climate nut jobs.

    • Stevie Boy

      Some cynics might say that our current problems with the price of Gas, Electricity, Petrol, etc. are directly linked to our government’s love affair with war and the USA. We are not allowed to buy the cheapest fuels, we have to buy what the state, not necessarily ours, allows. If we cannot see the sense in that I guess we must be anti-capitalists or profit deniers !

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