EDITOR’S COMMENT: THE UK GOVERNMENT WANTS TO BAN GAS BOILERS IN ALL NEWLY BUILT HOMES WITHIN THREE YEARS, AS PART OF ITS PLAN TO TACKLE CLIMATE CHANGE. CURRENTLY THERE ISN’T THE NECESSARY SUPPLY CHAINS, TRAINED INSTALLERS AND PRODUCT AVAILABILITY NEEDED FOR EVERY HOME-BUILDER, AND TAXPAYERS WILL INEVITABLY HAVE TO SUBSIDISE THIS MASS INSTALLATION. DO YOU AGREE? SIGN OUR PETITION!
New gas boilers will effectively be banned by the mid-2030s and have to be replaced with low-carbon alternatives such as heat pumps and hydrogen boilers, the government has said.
An energy white paper published yesterday said that the country would have to “transition completely away from natural gas boilers” as part of the target to hit net-zero emissions by 2050.
At present about 1.7 million gas boilers are installed every year.
The government will also launch a consultation on whether it is appropriate to end gas grid connections entirely for new homes. The Times has previously reported that gas boilers for new homes could be banned as soon as 2023.
The white paper also states that 4 million off-grid households in rural areas, which rely on stored oil or gas for heating and hot water, will have to move to green alternatives. It says the government will bring forward a “backstop date” for phasing out fossil-fuel heating systems in these homes.
Ministers said that heat pumps were a proven alternative technology for use in buildings but there was a need to make sure that consumers were getting fair value.
Replacing gas boilers will have significant costs. A heat pump, which draws heat from the ground, costs between £7,000 and £19,000 to install. The Energy Savings Trust says running costs will vary depending on a number of factors including the size of your home, how well insulated it is and the desired room temperature, but it could be about £100 a year more than than using a new A-rated gas boiler.
The white paper states: “To achieve net-zero emissions, we will have to transition completely away from traditional natural gas boilers for heating homes on the gas grid.
“There are currently around 1.7 million fossil fuel boiler installations every year but by the mid-2030s we expect all newly installed heating systems to be low-carbon or to be appliances that we are confident can be converted to a clean fuel supply.
“Electric heat pumps and hydrogen, green gas and shared heat networks all have their part to play. So, while we are clear on the eventual outcome, we will be flexible in how we achieve it, always looking for the most cost-effective, consumer-friendly approach and open to innovative solutions.”
Last week the Climate Change Committee recommended that the government phase out new gas boilers, unless they were hydrogen-ready in areas earmarked for hydrogen heating, by 2033. It said that sales of oil boilers should be phased out by 2028 and new gas boilers should be hydrogen-ready by 2025.
Randolph Brazier, of the Energy Networks Association, which represents businesses, said: “To reduce our carbon emissions from our heating, cooking and hot water, people must be able to choose the technology that’s right for them and the properties they live in.
“Otherwise we will fail. We need heat pumps, hydrogen-ready boilers and any other technologies that can help deliver that.”
Boris Johnson has approved negotiations with EDF about funding a new £20 billion nuclear power plant. The government wants to develop the twin-reactor plant in Suffolk, which could generate 3.2 gigawatts of electricity, enough to provide 7 per cent of the country’s electricity needs.
The move is an integral part of the prime minister’s commitment to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. Campaigners opposed to Sizewell C have said that it risked becoming a “white elephant” and reliant on taxpayer bailouts.
The white paper also set out plans to end the “loyalty penalty” that penalises customers who stay loyal to one energy company. Under one plan to be tested, called “opt-in switching”, consumers will be offered a simple method to switch to a cheaper tariff if their initial contract has ended.
The energy sector is at the heart of the battle to reduce Britain’s carbon emissions to “net zero” by 2050 (Emily Gosden writes). But the white paper made only limited headway in answering how the sector would be decarbonised.
Partly that is because the government had stolen its own thunder: first with October’s pledge to power every home using offshore wind by 2030; and then with last month’s ten-point plan for a green industrial revolution, which included new commitments about heat pumps, hydrogen and carbon capture technologies.
But the white paper also puts off most of the tough decisions that its own advisers say must be taken to achieve net zero, instead promising more consultations and strategy papers.
The Climate Change Committee has recommended that new oil boilers be phased out by 2028 and new gas ones by 2033. The government makes a woollier commitment to low-carbon systems “by the mid-2030s”. Which systems will be used where? How will it be paid for? These questions can only be put off for so long.
The formal start of negotiations with EDF over a new nuclear plant at Sizewell is about the bare minimum that was needed if the government wants to keep nuclear alive. The funding options under consideration have been known for months — the devil will lie in the detail of how much taxpayers or consumers actually have to pay.
And the overall ambition for the electricity sector seems lacking. Last week the Climate Change Committee set an unambiguous recommendation that power generation should be zero carbon by 2035. The energy white paper doesn’t commit to achieving this until 2050, albeit with a “trajectory that will see us have overwhelmingly decarbonised power in the 2030s”.
The government’s 2050 net zero target is rightly ambitious and clear; achieving it will require equally ambitious and clear policies to match.