Jan Rosenow and Richard Lowes: Meeting the UK government’s net zero emissions goal for 2050 will only be possible by complete decarbonisation of the building stock (both existing and new). There is uncertainty over the extent to which heating might practically be decarbonised in the future and what the optimal technologies may be. This paper provides some clarity about the pathways forward, focusing on the next 5-10 years. Almost all of the UK’s 29 million homes will require upgrading by 2050, that is about 1 million homes per year, and is equivalent to more than 19,000 homes per week. Current retrofit rates are inadequate for achieving even a significant portion of the required level of decarbonisation to meet the 2050 targets. The replacement of fossil fuel-based heating systems is happening at an even slower pace. In 2018 only 27,000 heat pumps were installed in the UK and the vast majority of new build homes were connected to the gas grid. As a result, the proportion of homes heated by gas is increasing.
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