Combined real-world data and research to provide a guide to the carbon content of our current and future heat sources
Erda Energy, the clean energy solutions company specialising in geo-exchange technology, has launched a service tracking the carbon content of various heating technologies in the UK. Based on proprietary and third-party data and research, the weekly-updated analysis provides regular insight into the carbon content of the main current and future source of space heating.
Professor Alex Rogers, Department of Computer Science, Oxford University, said: "The calculation of carbon intensity is critical the debate when it comes to making choices about our future energy mix. In power those calculations are well established, are developing, and are helping to drive carbon reduction. It's great to see the emergence of these calculations in the heat sector - a sector which desperately needs decarbonisation and clarity on which technologies achieve that."
Though calculating the carbon content of power generation is relatively straightforward, it is far more difficult for heat. There is no ‘National Grid for Gas' and neither total demand nor supply can be accurately measured. Gas demand is often taken as a proxy. Efficiency of devices varies widely, making it difficult to ascribe accurate carbon values. To circumvent these challenges, Erda Energy draws on live data from its own system, Elexon, and research by the Carbon Trust and Northern Gas Networks. The methodology is available here.
At the time of writing, the carbon intensities of the UK's major current and future sources of heat are estimated as follows:
Gas boilers: 195.7-248.6 gCO2/KWh of heat delivered
CHP: 221.2 grams of carbon emitted per kilo watt hour (gCO2/KWh)
Hydrogen (SMR+CCS*): 91.3-100.9 gCO2/KWh
This compares with 43.3 gCO2/KWh for Erda Energy's electric geo-exchange systems - a figure that is trending downwards over time as the power sector decarbonises. This is calculated from proprietary in-field data combined with Elexon's live grid carbon data, using a methodology checked by Oxford University. Live data is available here.
Kevin Stickney, Managing Director, Erda Energy said: "The current low/no-carbon heating debate centres on the hydrogen versus electrification question. It's an important debate but so far one that has precious little hard data behind it. It's not easy to do, but this new service is our contribution to a transparent conversation. The simple fact of the matter is, we have existing electric technologies today that offer a credible path to zero-carbon and we can't afford to wait."
Erda Energy's geo-exchange technology uses coaxial inclined borehole technology to harness the energies created in heating and cooling processes in the earth, feeding this back into a building in real time, or storing it for later use as needs fluctuate. The result is a closed loop system that provides heating, cooling and storage of energy on a more efficient basis than traditional technologies, such as standard ground source heat pumps (GSHPs).
Updated weekly, the data is published on Erda Energy's Twitter feed.
*Steam methane reforming (SMR) plus carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) - currently the frontrunner technology for mass production of hydrogen but not yet deployed at scale.