Richard Lowes Profile picture
Objective, independent, energy (policy) analysis. Clean heating and gas. Snr Associate @RegAssistProj. Fellow @exeterepg. Non-exec @scotgov+surfing+dogs
Nov 2 12 tweets 4 min read
Tom has asked me, @janrosenow and @DrSimEvans for some thoughts on barriers to electrification. So here's my attempt. My first point though is that decarbonising heat will be extraordinarily difficult, particularly in the way UK energy is currently governed (centralised). I'd also add that while I think in general the move towards electrification is the only way to go, there is also a huge role for local energy planning and urban heat networks retrofitting gas grid. FWIW I think Ofgem should regulate gas grids into this. But also difficult.
Oct 18 12 tweets 5 min read
And at the stroke of midnight, the new UK hydrogen for heating campaign was launched. First, here's mine and @DavidCebon's long read on why burning hydrogen for heat is very poor environmentally, socially and economically: rechargenews.com/energy-transit…
Second, a 🧵on who/why/what. Who? Well they are a group of primarily gas network and appliance manufacturing businesses plus a supplier (known for gas) and a transport interest. Pretty much the same group my academic analysis pointed out were resisting electrification back around 2019 sciencedirect.com/science/articl…
Aug 29 5 tweets 2 min read
Great to see these 2017 Passivhauses looking fully lived in. Electrified with PV and mechanical ventilation + heat recovery, these will be some of the people in the UK, best protected from the energy crisis. To think people lobbied and continue to lobby against such standards 🧵 They're in Hayle, Cornwall and I did a tour with students while they were being built. I remember thinking 'none of this is rocket science' but all all it took was a progressive developer. There's a policy message there! premierconstructionnews.com/2017/03/07/fai…
Aug 12 8 tweets 3 min read
Every so often someone who has very little energy expertise comes along and says how terrible energy policy is cos things are currently bad. A, it's been this Lord's government in power for 12 years and B, when the new PM gets into position, the facts will still be the facts🧵 Those facts being that 1 the current crisis is all about gas prices and the squeeze on supply. To not accept this is either ignorance or some weird anti-renewables dogma I don't quite understand.
Aug 11 11 tweets 5 min read
A short thread on the rapidly transforming economics of building based renewables in the UK, levies and market reform..... The proposed removal of levies from bills could provide a small nudge towards electrification as levies are currently loaded onto electricity. Based on Investec price cap numbers for Oct 22, a dual fuel household would see a reduction of £153 annually, an electrified house, £280.
Jun 1 15 tweets 4 min read
I've been asked to comment on some new analysis from ecotricity on grass based biomethane. TLDR, I'm still extremely sceptical and this sort of targeted analysis ignores whole system impacts. Whole system modelling needed here (thread).
The press release is particularly salesy. Big headline cost number uses an unfair comparison of certain capital costs, suggests big bill increases with heat pumps (unlikely), suggests removing need for efficiency upgrades (😬), suggests 'scrapping' gas appliances.
Feb 10 20 tweets 6 min read
I want to talk about the gateway drug to clean energy that is solar photovoltaics. i.e. PV. Ever cheaper, with increasingly outrageously short paybacks even in the UK. Thanks to @MartinSLewis for sharing this but I have something to add (thread). So first a bit of context. And this was two years ago! Dramatic cost reductions, want to know more, speak to @solar_chase. But that is steep and it's not stopped. Meanwhile of course, wholesale power prices have gone up, the April cap is 28p/KWh.
Nov 30, 2021 7 tweets 2 min read
It's extremely frustrating to have to repeat basic facts in order to counter egos and interests...but I'll say it again: Using bioenergy, in this case, converted to biogas, for heating at scale, is not a good or even possible option for heating in the UK (thread). 1. The actual bio-resource is limited i.e. there's not enough bio-stuff to do it. And what you can produce biogas from is limited anyway. You'd need to restructure agriculture and eating habits to get a decent chunk and even then there may be better ways to use the land.
Oct 21, 2021 22 tweets 5 min read
Mind the gap.

Some thoughts on the heat and buildings strategy now I have had some time to digest (most of) it. Firstly well done to BEIS for getting this out in the context of COVID and a distracted government. But there are some gaps. The good. Well the move from RHI to a grant (boiler upgrade scheme) is, in general, a good move. The RHI scheme was just always a bit weird and useless if you didn't have access to cash. Time will tell if the cash gets used up.
Oct 19, 2021 13 tweets 3 min read
Righto. Gonna thread while I read though the heat and buildings strategy. Initial thoughts, lots of focus on cost reduction and innovation but also recognition for need of regulation such as heat network zoning. gov.uk/government/pub… Good image of timeline. Recognition of heat networks and heat pumps whatever happens with gas ☑️ Image
Oct 1, 2021 17 tweets 5 min read
There is a wealth of expertise and evidence on what is a sensible path for decarbonisation of heat in the UK. Having worked on multiple biogas projects and having worked on this issue for over a decade, this idea that we can use biogas at scale for heat can be dismissed (thread) 1. Availability of bio-resource. Huge amounts of land would be needed. There is recognition of some (most) meat grazing land being re-purposed. But more fundamentally, this would be a restructuring of much of agricultural system.
Sep 23, 2021 9 tweets 4 min read
'From laggard to leader: How the UK can capitalise on the heat pump opportunity'

My recent @BusinessGreen op-ed is now available open-access on the @RegAssistProj website (mini-thread)

raponline.org/blog/laggard-t… Fundamentally, heat pumps are expected to be central to the global energy transition (see @IEA, @HeatRoadmapEU, @beisgovuk, @theCCCuk, @UKERCHQ). The UK's large heating appliance manufacturing base could pivot into this strategically important tech.
Aug 20, 2021 25 tweets 10 min read
The UK hydrogen strategy outlined the government's support for a 'twin track' approach which supports both 'green' (from renewable electricity) and 'blue' (from fossil gas) hydrogen. This has caused a bit of stir, so what are the issues? (thread). So firstly, why blue? Well it appears to be linked to a corporate strategy, and it appears to have stuck!
Aug 17, 2021 7 tweets 2 min read
Heating: what does the hydrogen strategy say? In short, it's all about trials for the next decade but delaying action on heat pumps and heat networks 'could prevent us from meeting near term carbon budgets' (thread). First up, some confusion about how many homes will actually be heated by hydrogen by 2030. The press release says 3 million by 2030, the actual document says something very different: (very odd).
Jul 27, 2021 10 tweets 4 min read
The absolutely criminal thing about heat decarbonisation/heat transition politics is the total ignorance by policy makers of the value it will bring to the UK. Ignoring the carbon reductions, it will save money and pay for itself through the reductions in gas imports (thread). Currently GB is very reliant on fossil gas, more than almost all countries apart from the Netherlands. This is because we went big for gas in the 60s and 70s after finding North Sea gas. But that time is over. We now import over 50% of gas and that's expected to increase.
Sep 24, 2020 10 tweets 3 min read
I think I've now managed to digest all the Times pieces today (I was featured in one of them) and thought I should set out my stall in a short thread. So, last week The Times featured an 'opinion piece' suggesting No 10 were very interested in hydrogen: I was interviewed following the submission of a letter to the editor, not from me, but from another academic. csrf.ac.uk/2020/09/letter…. A shortened version of this letter featured today.
Aug 20, 2020 7 tweets 2 min read
I have a new article in the journal 'Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions' which has been in the making for a number of years.

It wouldn't have been possible without cross-institutional support and wider expertise around the characteristics of 'low carbon gas'. Focusing on the issue of incumbency, we investigate the emergence of a low carbon gas coalition in the UK. We investigate what the coalition has been doing and the messages it has been promoting primarily through political lobbying and policy engagement.
Aug 16, 2020 4 tweets 1 min read
Don't know about you, but I've spent the morning creating UK emission trajectories for heat. That shaded bit is the cumulative emissions of not acting. The lower line is an emissions trajectory based on heat pump deployment (1/4). Image Basically the point is, morally we need to act now, it's not just about net zero but the time taken on the journey to get there. Hence, rapidly deploy energy efficiency, heat pumps and heat networks at scale. Not enough time to wait to see what hydrogen might be able to do (2/4)
Aug 14, 2020 6 tweets 1 min read
There's a real humdinger of a statement in the report behind this claim which assumes that hydrogen is *the* technology for existing homes (1/5). You ready? 'However, electric technologies such as heat pumps are
unlikely to be able to meet the elevated heat demand requirements of the existing housing stock. We have therefore assumed hydrogen will be used to
decarbonise this existing housing stock.' (2/5).
Jun 16, 2020 4 tweets 2 min read
Increasing heat pump coefficients of performance drastically increase the cost effectiveness of heat pumps. The UK has a long way to go in terms of installed performance but with increases in skills and further technical development there is room for some optimism here (1/4). However, best performance requires low flow temperatures which requires efficient buildings and careful installs. UK experience has not been great, see @EnergySvgTrust field trials. Much of this was down to install/specification issues, not the actual appliances (2/4).
Jun 2, 2020 4 tweets 2 min read
It's a real shame that these guys can't use twitter as a forum for discussion but instead lower it to personal and unjustified statements like this. Already retweeted by their CEO. For the record (again) I've never said electrification would be easy. But my expertise suggests there is a lot more to like about it than this 100% hydrogen world being pushed by quite clearly vested interests. Hybrid combos may also have value.