The government has announced that the £ 450million boiler upgrade program, which is part of the more than £ 3.9 billion in funding to cut carbon emissions from heating and buildings, will be used to help it achieve its goal of having all new heating system installations low-carbon by 2035.
However, the government has insisted that families will not be forced to remove their existing fossil fuel boilers.
Ministers said the shift to low-carbon heating will reduce emissions and reduce the UK’s dependence on fossil fuels, as well as its exposure to soaring global gas prices. It will also support up to 240,000 jobs across the country by 2035, they added.
The program will encourage people to install low-carbon heating systems such as heat pumps, which run on electricity and extract energy from the air or the ground.
The £ 3.9 billion funding will be used to reduce carbon emissions from heating and buildings, including making social housing more energy efficient and comfortable, as well as reducing emissions from public buildings, over the years. next three years.
The £ 5,000 grants will be available from April and will mean people installing a heat pump will pay a similar amount to those installing traditional gas boilers, according to plans.
The heat pump grants will be available to households in England and Wales, as part of the UK-wide heating and building strategy.
Heat pumps currently cost an average of £ 10,000 to install and do not necessarily save on running costs although they are much more efficient than gas, as environmental taxes are higher on electricity than on gas. the gas.
The government has said its plans will help people install low-carbon heating systems in a simple, fair and inexpensive way as they replace their old boilers over the next decade.
He said he would work with industry to ensure heat pumps have the same cost to purchase and operate as fossil fuel units by 2030.
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Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: ‘As we clean up the way we heat our homes over the next decade, we are supporting our brilliant innovators to make clean technologies like heat pumps so cheap to buy and use. than gas boilers – supporting thousands of green jobs.
“Our new grants will help homeowners make the switch sooner, without costing them more, so going green is the best choice when their boiler needs an upgrade. “
Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng added: “The recent volatility in global gas prices has highlighted the need for increased efforts to reduce Britain’s dependence on fossil fuels and s ” move away from gas boilers over the next decade to protect consumers in the long term.
“As technology improves and costs fall over the next decade, we expect low-carbon heating systems to become the obvious and affordable choice for consumers.
Greg Jackson, chief executive and founder of Octopus Energy, said when the subsidy program kicks off, his company will install heat pumps at roughly the same cost as gas boilers.
“Electric heat pumps are more efficient, safer and cleaner than gas boilers and can help make homes more comfortable with less energy,” he said.
Analysis by Tom Clarke, Science and Technology Writer
A fair, affordable and deliverable plan to wean UK homes off fossil fuels is one of the toughest parts of the government’s net zero plans.
Levies on energy bills have been a fairly straightforward way to subsidize clean forms of power generation – the method used to phase out coal-fired power and replace it with offshore wind, for example.
But how do you go about pulling off a similar trick to persuade the owners of 29 million gas boilers to move on?
Especially when that something else costs 10 times more to buy, and would currently cost a lot more to run?
This is the challenge of switching from gas to electric heat pumps. And the one that the Heat and Buildings Strategy tried to solve.
The plan was delayed for over a year; partly because of the amount of feuds between Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng and Chancellor Rishi Sunak over how to make it work.
But the result, according to most of the experts I’ve spoken to, is not a bad start.
The plan has enough money to help homeowners purchase about 30,000 new air source heat pumps per year for three years.
It’s far from enough to solve the climate crisis (we need more than 450,000 by 2025 according to the Climate Change Commission), but it is seen by many as a good start.
This should help generate the economies of scale needed to reduce device costs to stimulate demand.
The strategy also does not ignore the basic physics of electric heat pumps versus boilers.
Heat pumps are only affordable if they operate at lower temperatures than gas boilers (50 ° C vs. 70 ° C) and that means that in order to heat a house with a heat pump you need a house well insulated and without drafts.
The plan increases funding to improve things like insulation in social housing and for people in fuel poverty.
Again, nowhere near enough to achieve a net zero goal, but most experts say they couldn’t expect much more given the current pressures on public spending.
But important details are missing. There is little support for homeowners or private owners to improve the energy efficiency of homes.
And there is not much evidence of support for local authorities who manage the bulk of social housing – much of which is most in need of improvement.
Another important and long-awaited element of the strategy is the reform of electricity pricing to encourage homeowners to switch from gas-fired heat pumps to electric heat pumps.
At present, gas is significantly cheaper than electricity.
The strategy was expected to remove taxes on electricity, to make things like heat pumps cheaper to operate, and therefore more attractive.
Instead, the government decided to consult on this with a decision next year.
“Today we have taken an important step in our fight against climate change and to reduce Britain’s dependence on expensive and dirty gas. “
Labor shadow secretary Ed Miliband said: “As millions of families face an energy and cost-of-living crisis, this is a lean, unambitious and wholly inadequate response .
“Families across the country were in desperate need of Labor’s 10-year plan investing £ 6bn a year for home insulation and zero carbon heating to cut their bills by £ 400 a year, improve our energy security, create jobs and reduce carbon emissions.
“People can’t heat their homes with even more hot air from Boris Johnson, but that’s all that’s on offer. “
Speaking to Kay Burley on Tuesday morning, International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said the government’s package was “far-reaching” and that the program would be “voluntary” in the “short term”.
“In the short term, of course, this is a voluntary program,” Ms Trevelyan told Sky News.
“But every 10 to 15 years we all get a new boiler, so as part of the transition, this journey to net-zero, as we as national citizens make changes to our homes, these Support frameworks are there, but we will also drive these changes in the regulations. “
Pressed by criticism from the Green Party that the £ 450million boiler upgrade program will only provide 90,000 heat pumps while there are 29 million homes in the UK, Ms Trevelyan added : already a vast program – billions of pounds – to help them decarbonize, insulate and even change their heating systems.
“This £ 450million which is committed over the next three years will help those who really want to crack it down, to effectively give them a cost neutral opportunity to change the gas boiler they currently have to a heat pump or another clean energy solution like I did with a hydrogen ready boiler to get us close to that.
“So I think it’s a great first part of the program – but for those who need it most, there is already a huge local authority program going on. “
But the head of the climate crisis advisory group, Sir David King, called for a “comprehensive strategy” to reduce emissions.
Referring to the £ 450million boiler upgrade program as “a small step in the right direction”, Sir David told Sky News that the “voluntary nature” of the policy “threatens its deployment”.
Green MP Caroline Lucas agreed that the voluntary aspect of the program was of concern, telling Sky News “there just isn’t enough money in this package to properly insulate homes.”
She added: “I’m afraid this is another of Boris Johnson’s big flagship policies that when you start looking at the details just aren’t there – and on the eve of the summit on the climate of the COP, this great Glasgow summit in a few weeks, I think that sends a very bad signal. ”