GAS Briefing: Heat and Buildings Strategy – Set up to Fail?
Boris Johnson’s Conservative Government today published its long awaited Heat and Buildings Strategy barely two weeks before the landmark COP26 conference is due to begin in Glasgow. Addressing the single greatest problem for UK carbon emissions, this Strategy had been expected in Autumn 2020. It is now more than a year late.
But it is worse than late, it is much too little. For a flagship strategy, designed to move the entire British population from gas-fired boilers to renewable energy boilers by 2035, it concentrates on the air-source heat pump as the solution. Grants of £5,000 per household are offered to support the change. However, for a typical three-bedroomed house currently using gas for its central heating, the costs of converting to a heat pump to replace the traditional gas boiler are £15-20,000.
This is without taking into account the cost of the ancillary works that must accompany the fitting of an air-source heat pump – insulation, double glazing, and any other work required to make sure there is no heat leakage.
This option as an alternative to gas has a payback period, after which the money saved on the energy source – air, instead of gas – exceeds the original cost of the conversion. But at these prices, the payback period is going to exceed the lifespans of many householders, even with the spiraling cost of gas that we face at present.
GAS CEO, Nick Lyth, comments:
This is a technology problem. The reason for the Government’s delays in publishing this Strategy is the absence of any clear solution. Air-source heat pumps are, as we speak, not yet fit for purpose. There is currently no better alternative. Our work now must be on improving the technology, so that it is fit for purpose. And finding workable alternatives.
The Government has followed its advisers recommendations, the Climate Change Committee’s report on heat, in finalising this strategy. The target date for banning gas boilers of 2035 is much later than originally anticipated. In November 2020, it announced that the sale of new gas boilers would be banned in 2025. A few days after the original announcement, a Government source changed the date, incredibly, to 2023. A retraction swiftly followed, admitting a mistake, after which no further date was mentioned.
Nick Lyth, again: “The Government’s confusion over dates is an indication of the importance of this programme. The UK will not get close to its Net Zero targets without sorting out domestic heat. Accounting for 14% of UK carbon emissions, it cannot be treated as an insoluble problem. The Government has behaved like an ostrich for over a year now. Finally, this announcement is a real disappointment. There is a danger that it is set up to fail.”
But the Government has precious few alternatives, even if it had allocated a more realistic sum to support the strategy. Read analysis recently published by GAS for a fuller account of the UK domestic heat problem.
Notes to Editors
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