A promising future
Despite the fact that electric heating products are still being penalised in Government figures, the industry has a promising future and electrical wholesalers have a role to play in helping to protect its future.
Though electric space and water heating products are currently viewed as carbon intensive within SAP (Standard Assessment Procedure), hence presenting installers and specifiers with some difficult challenges, Heatrae Sadia believes the industry has a strong and promising future.
After all, in some circumstances, electric heating is, and will continue to be, the only option. Take high rise flats and apartments, for example, where the installation of gas central heating isn’t usually as viable as electric heating; there are generally few restrictions on the supply of electricity, and installation and product siting is relatively easy as issues like flueing and condensate drainage don’t have to be considered.
Furthermore, we believe that electric heating critics are being short-sighted, as they haven’t considered that in the future it will be a very attractive offer. The arguments against electric heating are based on the way electricity is principally generated in the UK, rather than on the efficiency of the products themselves. Electric heating products are actually highly efficient at the point of use (for example Heatrae Sadia’s Amptec electric boiler is 99.8% efficient) so, if electricity can be generated in a less carbon intensive way, then this type of heating becomes much more sustainable.
We know from the Climate Change Committee Report, Building a Low Carbon Economy – the UK’s Contribution to Tackling Climate Change, a radical de-carbonisation of power is on the way. In fact, an almost full decarbonisation of the power sector will be required by 2030.
The grid is likely to become decarbonised through the development of a new generation of nuclear power stations, backed by the Government, and renewable electricity production. Green electricity is already being produced via renewable methods, for example through wind farms and hydro-power, and is available from some energy suppliers.
Electric heating products are also highly compatible with low-carbon, renewable technologies, especially solar thermal water heating and heat pumps. In fact the Climate Change Committee Report even states that further carbon emission reductions will require the introduction of new technologies based on electricity.
So alongside BEAMA TEHVA, we are lobbying the Government and EU officials to change the current stance on electric heating and to ensure its merits are recognised and that new product development is encouraged.
After all, the Government is encouraging investment in electric cars because it recognises the carbon savings they can offer; hence the same principle should be applied to electric heating. The benefits of electric cars (battery storage and load management) can be equally applied to electric storage water heaters where both base load nuclear power (once on stream) and intermittent renewable technologies can be utilised. Our message to Government is therefore to encourage the installation of energy efficient electric and other forms of storage water heating now to bank long-term carbon savings.
We believe that if the Government doesn’t act now there could be a shift away from electric heating. And if this is allowed to happen, in years to come, when electric heating products will be very much in demand and can provide a sustainable solution, modern, innovative products simply won’t be there.
Hence manufacturers need to keep on investing in product development, and should continue to innovate. We must step up to the challenges set by current legislation, by making sure our products are as energy efficient as possible, and are compatible with renewable technologies. This will ensure we are ready to capitalise on the low-carbon electricity production that the future will definitely bring.
Meanwhile, electrical wholesalers might be left feeling concerned about how to best sell electric heating products. In actual fact, wholesalers are in a prime position to provide advice to specifiers and electrical installers – and having the right know-how can help to increase sales.
Our advice is to make sure the electric space and water heating products being stocked and recommended are the most energy efficient on the market – and to be in a position to offer advice about improving efficiencies and meeting legislative targets through the use of renewable technologies, correct sizing and good insulation. By taking this approach, electrical wholesalers can ensure that electric water heating products continue to be specified – helping to protect the market’s future.