A committee of MPs says the UK government should update plans to ban gas boilers from new homes, introducing the move next year rather than in 2025
3 February 2022
A ban on gas boilers in new homes in England and Wales should be brought forward two years to 2023, according to a report by a group of MPs who say the UK government must be clearer about how it plans to decarbonise heating in homes.
The report by the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) select committee comes ahead of energy regulator Ofgem at 11am today announcing the new level of a price cap covering 22 million homes in Great Britain.
Analysts expect the average home’s energy bill will jump 50 per cent to £1915 a year under the new cap from 1 April, driven primarily by surging gas costs and collapsed energy suppliers. The government is reportedly preparing to intervene with loans to energy suppliers to help them soften the immediate impact on consumers.
The BEIS committee says the government’s strategy for getting off gas boilers for home heating, published last October, lacks detail on policies and fails to offer clarity on how the plans will be delivered.
Heat pumps, heat networks and hydrogen boilers are seen as the three main alternatives to gas boilers, which heat 85 per cent of UK homes today. The government has set a target that all new heating systems installed in UK homes from 2035 should be low carbon.
“The headline problem is that the government has announced a target, but they’ve not really announced how they’re going to deliver it,” says Darren Jones, chair of the BEIS committee. “The market is not yet mature enough – the innovation curve, the price point for consumers, the ability to install kit across the country – to deliver the target in the time-frame. So that requires some form of state intervention.”
Moving away from gas boilers will be a challenge because of “scale, complexity, and cost”, say the MPs. Some 36,000 heat pumps were installed in 2020 compared to nearly 2 million gas boilers. Meeting a government goal of 600,000 heat pumps a year by 2028 will be vital if the UK is not to miss its target of reducing the entire economy to net zero emissions by 2050, the committee adds.
One solution would be to bring forward a ban on gas boilers in new homes in England from 2025 to 2023 to avoid costly retrofits later, the report says. Another would be a public awareness campaign with energy suppliers to tackle “extremely limited” consumer awareness of low carbon heating.
A new £450 million “boiler upgrade scheme” opens to households in England and Wales in April, which will pay £5000 of the typical £10,000 cost of an air-source heat pump. But the report says the scheme is “not of the scale” needed to meet the 2035 low carbon heat goal.
Jones says decarbonising heat in homes will be key to avoiding repeats of energy price shocks like the one the UK faces today. “When we have well-insulated homes with heating systems that aren’t going to be fuelled by volatile gas prices, that’s going to be great for the climate, but it’s also going to be great for energy bills,” he says.
Separately today, a poll by Opinium for innovation agency Nesta found that 88 per cent of 2000 UK adults under-estimated how many tonnes of carbon emissions a domestic gas boiler produces each year. Only 12 per cent correctly said they were the equivalent to seven London-to-New York flights.
The UK government was approached for comment.
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