Decarbonising the UK residential sector: the dependence of national abatement on flexible and local views of the future

Oliver Broad, Graeme Hawker, Paul E. Dodds

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
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The UK has some of the worst performing residential buildings in the EU from an energy efficiency perspective. Natural gas remains a dominant feature of existing and new-build housing with strong historical, technical, and social barriers to change. Consequently, the residential sector is responsible for significant shares of national emissions and has a strong role to play under ambitious net zero targets. To assess this role, this work combines long-term system-wide optimisation modelling with heat and electricity network models of representative residential locations. The scenario framework investigates key heating alternatives across futures with dwindling carbon budgets but lower restrictions on residential investment options. Comparing frameworks offers insights into “real life” applicability of technology solutions consistent with system-wide decarbonisation pathways to 2050. Residential sector heat plays an increasing role in lowering emissions as targets tighten. Moving away from natural gas becomes unavoidable and long-term trajectories combine end-use electrification, at household or collective levels, with supply-side decarbonisation. This is preferable to alternative gases that continue to carry uncertain emission impacts, but requires significant local network reinforcement. This could be deferred where technically difficult using near-term hybrid approaches. Enabling this transition will rely on policies that support open and varied technology portfolios.

Original languageEnglish
Article number111321
Number of pages16
JournalEnergy Policy
Early online date23 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2020


  • energy system modelling
  • net zero
  • network model
  • optimisation
  • power system
  • residential heat


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  • The Pathway to Net Zero Heating in the UK

    Rosenow, J., Lowes, R., Broad, O., Hawker, G., Wu, J., Qadrdan, M. & Gross, R., 1 Oct 2020, London, p. 1-11, 11 p.

    Research output: Working paperDiscussion paper

    Open Access
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