How renewable power will change future home infrastructure in the UK
The United Kingdom has a legal obligation under the Climate Change Act 2008, amended 2019, to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. To achieve this a major aim suburban and rural housing will have to evolve to become more efficient and even become a net positive to the UK national grid. Such a large task will require a change in the way houses are built and designed to not only achieve renewability, but also, meet the requirements of a home with new and more power demanding technologies.
Currently there are three major barriers to 100% renewability: battery capacity, battery life and cost. To overcome this issue major government and corporation incentives and investment is required. However, to overcome the issue of housing demand and small scale infrastructure consumption, lower level housing developers and individual investment is necessary. Homes over the last decade have been built more efficiently, but in minor strides. In 2015 2.7% of residential dwellings in the UK had solar photovoltaics installed, by 2020 that number is now 3.3%. A good increase above the 2.8% that was predicted by 2020 in a 2015 report by the European Commission. Though there is a long way to go to get to around the 40% needed but the price of solar has decreased significantly in the last two decades and even in the last five years. Solar homes is not really one of the main obstacles to achieving net zero and housing infrastructure will only change in the dimension of roofs that face southwards on homes. The most pressing issue to overcome is electric vehicles integrated into homes.
Currently around 88% of UK homes have driveways which is a good position for a country looking to switch to only electric vehicles sales over the next 15 years. Driveways are almost a necessity now on all suburban and rural homes built. Parking on residential roads, where there wont be any significant infrastructure for renewable charging outside of major cities, will be a change that not many people will have thought about. Most people will have to charge their cars on a driveway or in a garage overnight. The only solution to this would be councils and local government upgrading lampposts to feature electric charging points at a considerable cost, therefore, that won’t happen anytime soon. It’s not only the infrastructure and cost that is a barrier requiring more driveways, also, residents unease at charging a vehicle not on their own property.
Designing infrastructure in the future will also rely on expanded infrastructure capacity for energy storage, for example, the Tesla Powerwall battery which stores energy from roof solar and from the grid so that in the case of a national grid power outage the isolated building has the battery as a back up. Accommodating another closet space of room might seem easy and cheap to do in buildings but it is actually very expensive when talking about something as vital as space.
The battery also allows building to store energy from daytime solar production for use in the peak demand time of the evenings when solar production is near non-existent. These, batteries are currently around £10,000 a unit with a UK house requiring 2-3 to be off grid in Summertime. To further compound the bleakness of the current viability of these individual homes and building style batteries they only have a lifespan of around 15 years. Battery life is the major roadblock to achieving small buildings achieving fully green energy production and consumption long-term and in the short-term cost is the issue. The reliance is that as batteries improve cost reduces over the next decade, which seems like an unattainable goal.
Though the future will have many challenges both creating space for hardware technologies and creating technologies affordable, one must be optimistic that the Western nations are already beating their renewable goals set out over the past decades. It is clear to many that the UK will be able to achieve Net-Zero carbon emissions by 2050. Though 2050 is an ambitious task, it is attainable, those who call for 2030 net zero do not know what they are talking about and the technologies will not even exist by 2030 to achieve net zero. Overall, the UK can adjust to renewables it will just be a case of getting used to it.