The Government has announced a consultation on the future of heat in non-domestic buildings as part of its plan to secure, affordable and clean energy solutions. Non-domestic buildings account for 12% of greenhouse gas emissions and it is vital that the carbon and bill savings are maximised if the UK is to reach its carbon reduction commitments in both the short and longer term.

Today, most buildings in the UK burn fossil fuels for space and water heating. There is a need to cut emissions whilst maintaining the same level of comfort in buildings and the best way is to cut energy use itself. For businesses, energy is often viewed as a relatively small part of a company or organisation’s overheads or a fixed cost however there are significant potential available energy savings in this sector. There is significant potential for savings from heat, cooling and energy efficiency within the different non-domestic sectors (public, business and commercial) but accessing it has a number of challenges because of the diverse nature of energy usage in those buildings. There are technologies which have great potential to help strike the balance, such as biogas, hydrogen and heat pumps.

It must be recognised that the UK has a diverse range of building types, heat demands and a dominant natural gas grid. Cutting carbon from heat may require significant change to infrastructure. Almost 60% of non-domestic heat is currently generated by gas; the majority of which is now imported from overseas. In rural areas buildings are more likely to be heated using oil, while electricity is an important heat source for many in urban areas not connected to the gas network such as apartment blocks. UK building stock varies widely from solid wall Victorian buildings, through mid-twentieth century tower blocks and offices to modern new-build properties; each of these has significantly different thermal characteristics.

The low carbon heat approaches that are deployed must accommodate this considerable complexity, but also must be centred on consumer needs: low costs, low bills, and accessible for all.

Heat supply should not be looked at in isolation, but hand in hand with heat demand. Policies aimed at decarbonising heat must be compatible with policies that drive energy efficiency. The ultimate aim must be for Government to set the framework and let the markets deliver. This will require the setting of long-term, transparent signals giving the confidence to invest and innovate whilst improving the performance of products and systems that reduce cost to energy users.

The latest Building Energy Efficiency Survey Data BEES data indicates that it is possible to reduce energy use by 39% through installing more efficient equipment and improving energy management. Almost half of this saving potential could be realised from measures with an investment payback of three years or less. The estimated bill savings from these measures would be £1.2bn a year. The potential lies across all types of buildings, with the most cost effective measures being in lighting upgrades, improvements in building energy management and insulation. On an absolute basis, the five largest sectors of offices, retail, industrial, hospitality and health account for 68% of the total reduction potential. The largest energy uses included space and water heating which accounts for 46% of all building energy use. A further 7% of energy was used for space cooling, lighting accounted for 14% of energy with the next largest energy use was for catering at 8%.

The Government is seeking feedback from those in the building industry on how it can keep energy bills as low as possible, continue to ensure the UK has a secure and resilient energy system and reduce carbon emissions cost-effectively whilst ensuring that the UK is at the leading edge of science, research and innovation. The following details the specific questions asked but any other feedback is also welcomed.

  • How can the potential to reduce energy use and carbon emissions be maximised through decarbonising the heating supply in non-domestic buildings?
  • What existing statutory or voluntary standards are most effective?
  • What drives decisions about heat sources and cooling systems in non-domestic buildings?
  • Should there be a further tightening of building performance standards?
  • What action should Government take to reduce the use of coal and oil in buildings?
  • What other innovative solutions or opportunities exist that may have a tangible impact on emissions from heat in buildings?

The consultation closes on 27th January 2017. We are formulating our response to the consultation and would welcome your feedback to incorporate into this. To have your say, please email the compliance team at or alternatively complete the contact form. To discuss this further please call Melanie Kendall-Reid on 01252 87 87 22.

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