Calls for boiler phase-out date and incentives for heat pump switch

·4-min read

A target date for phasing out boilers and grants to help people install heat pumps are needed to help cut emissions from heating homes, the Government has been told.

Industry experts want similar measures to those being used to accelerate the drive towards electric cars, such as a phase out date in the 2030s and grants that bring down the cost of new technology.

There are also calls to shift green levies away from electricity to make running an electric-powered heat pump a cheaper option for consumers.

Homes contribute around 15% of the UK’s carbon emissions and cleaning up fossil fuel heating systems, mostly gas boilers, is needed to meet legal targets to cut climate pollution to zero overall.

The Government has pledged 600,000 new heat pumps, technology that uses electricity to take energy from the outside air, or ground, to provide homes with heating and hot water, will be installed a year by 2028.

But experts warn its plans so far will fund just 12,500 homes a year to switch to low carbon heating systems, and ministers have not yet published a long-awaited strategy on making the shift to clean heating.

Backers of heat pumps say installation costs, which can be around £10,000 at the moment, will fall as the industry scales up, and they will help tackle climate change and air pollution, require less maintenance, use less energy and create jobs.

The Government is also facing calls for a new programme to make homes cosier and more energy efficient and to make sure that poorer and vulnerable households do not face unfair costs.

Dr Jan Rosenow, European director of the Regulatory Assistance Project, which works on accelerating the transition to clean, reliable, and efficient energy, said the Government would have to tackle the “thorny issue” of changing the green levies on electricity.

While heat pumps are several times more efficient than gas boilers in terms of the amount energy they use, they do not necessarily save consumers money at the moment to run, as electricity is several times more expensive than gas.

This is in part because environmental taxes account for less than 2% of gas bills, but nearly a quarter (23%) of the cost of electricity.

Dr Rosenow said more incentives were needed to install heat pumps, especially for poorer parts of society, otherwise, he warned, the scheme would backfire.

And a long-term target, such as 2030 or 2033, to phase out new fossil fuel boilers was needed, which the public could understand and would drive the market.

“I think it’s a very important component, I don’t think without that, if it was just based on some tweaks to the levies, some financial incentives, it will be enough to drive the market forward and also give clarity that this is going to happen, it’s not going to be easy, but it’s going to happen, and the market will get ready for it.

“I think without that it could be a fairly mute response,” he said.

Bean Beanland, director for growth and external affairs with industry body, the Heat Pump Federation, said the first target should be phasing out oil boilers, with support for rural communities to make the switch, as “it’s not their fault they haven’t got gas”.

He also called for a long term phase out date, similar to the date set for ending sales of new conventional petrol and diesel cars.

And he said: “From Government we need some genuine leadership on, fundamentally, we must stop burning fossil fuels, they’ve got to make a very clear statement.”

He urged the Government to do more to reassure people the move was a good thing and to lead the way by funding the installation of heat pumps in social housing and public buildings.

Clementine Cowton, director for external affairs at Octopus Energy, said: “Gas boilers have served us well but they’re dirty, inefficient and break down a lot.

“Electric boilers, powered by heat pumps, are simply a better, more modern product.”

Octopus Energy expects to halve the costs of installing heat pumps before the end of 2022 and is investing £10 million in a research and development and training centre to slash costs further and create jobs.

“We expect running costs to fall soon as well.

“Unbelievably, electricity still carries over 10 times more taxes than dirty gas.

“But as soon as the Government fixes this oversight and cuts the electricity, electric boilers will be much cheaper to run than gas – making them the safer, cleaner and cheaper choice,” she said.

A Business Department spokesperson said: “We are already leading the way to ensure affordability and fairness are at the heart of our plans to cut emissions from heating, and more detail on our approach will be provided in the upcoming Heat and Buildings Strategy.

“We are supporting lower income households and vulnerable people to make homes greener and cut energy bills, and will continue to do so through schemes such as the Home Upgrade Grant and the new Clean Heat Grant from April next year.”

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