Tag Archives: RAE

#GreenSkills a serious barrier

The RAE (Royal Academy of Engineering) have today published their report:

Heat: Degrees of Comfort, Options for heating home in a low carbon economy. 

There is no possibility that the UK can meet its 2050 target for CO2 emissions without a fundamental change to the way our homes are heated, according to a report published today (12 January) by the Royal Academy of Engineering. Even with the most modern gas boilers and state-of-the art insulation, we cannot continue to heat so many homes by natural gas and still achieve an 80% cut in emissions as laid down in the Climate Change Act 2008.

Plumbers unprepared for move to energy-efficient homes, report warns (from the Guardian 12/01/12)

In addition to the technical options and considerations, throughout the report there are a number of important and timely comments around the skills issue for installation, AND, for behavioural operation, as the following extracts show:

… skills shortages will be a serious barrier to decarbonising heating unless addressed effectively

… behavioural aspects are very important. Studies in the UK and overseas tend
to reveal a variation of typically 3:1 between the upper and lower tails of the
energy use (between the 5% and 95% cases in the distribution) in technically
similar dwellings occupied by people from demographically similar
backgrounds. To make radical changes, it will therefore be essential to engage the occupiers.

… the lack of inter-discplinary work:

(A Cautionary Tale Case study): The initial problem they faced was finding a single contractor who would take responsibility for the whole installation including the GSHP, ground coils, underloor heating and the integration of the new system with their existing heating and DHW installations. Eventually, despite having contacted the Low Carbon Partnership and the Energy Savings Trust, they had to place separate contracts with a heat pump installer, a groundwork contractor, a plumber and an electrician for different parts of the work.

The work went ahead and a 16kW heat pump, 150m of slinkies, a thermostore tank, solar collectors, two underfloor heating coils and room thermostats were installed.

When the system was operational the householder was shocked to find the electricity bill increased from £30 per month to £250. After 18 months of high electricity consumption and many visits by the different companies involved, it emerged that the heat pump had been wrongly connected so it was providing heat to the underfloor heating at the temperature required by the storage cylinder for DHW and, although the room thermostats were controlling the pumps on the underfloor heating manifold, they had not been interlocked with the heat pump which, in consequence, was running continuously at its maximum return temperature.

… often there was no single contractor responsible for the installation, which might involve a ground works contractor, a plumber, a heat pump installer and an electrician. As a result of there being no ‘design authority’ for the whole system, there was no single point of responsibility or any liability for the eventual performance of the installation

… there is clearly a need for many more engineers and technicians who understand the systems engineering that has to go into a heat pump installation and who can integrate the various energy systems in a customer’s house. The present provision in higher education and further education is well below what will be required. This could be a significant brake on the deployment of low-energy systems

“Our building performance studies show unmanageable complication is the enemy of good performance. So why are we making things more complicated in the name of sustainability?” – Bill Bordass,  The Usable Buildings Trust

and in conclusion:

17.4  Skills
The levels of applications engineering required to integrate a heat pump in a property along with local energy sources and other intelligent loads, such as chargers for electric cars, is much higher than is generally available in the trades that traditionally provide heating and related services to domestic consumers. A new type of energy use professional will be needed. Recruiting these will compete with the demands of new nuclear power, offshore wind and other energy industries that are already flagging-up staff shortages.

Skills shortage will potentially be a serious barrier to decarbonising heating unless addressed effectively.