Homeowners in England and Wales will be offered subsidies of £ 5,000 from next April to help them replace old gas boilers with low-carbon heat pumps.
The grants for 90,000 pumps are part of a £ 3.9 billion government plan to reduce carbon emissions from building heating.
It is hoped that no new gas boilers will be sold after 2035. The funding also aims to make social housing and public buildings more energy efficient.
But experts say the budget is too low and the strategy not ambitious enough.
Ministers say the subsidies will make heat pumps a price comparable to a new gas boiler. However, the £ 450 million earmarked for grants over three years will cover a maximum of 90,000 pumps.
Up to 25 million homes in the UK are estimated to be heated by gas boilers.
Experts also point out the need for expensive new insulation and other home improvements to help families get the best out of the switch.
Mike Childs, chief scientific officer of Friends of the Earth, said the number of heat pumps that the grants will cover is “not a lot” and means the UK will not meet its target of installing 600,000 heat pumps per year by 2028.
“These grants will only encourage the wealthiest families,” he said.
Greenpeace UK climate activist Caroline Jones said the government needs to provide more money to speed up the switch.
“A clearer signal would have been a phasing out of new boilers before 2035,” he said.
Jonny Marshall, senior economist at the Resolution Foundation, a poverty-focused think tank, said the UK will struggle to meet its goal of halving home emissions by 2035.
The UK has committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050.
But a panel of experts advising the government says Boris Johnson’s government has credible policies in place to provide only about a fifth of this cut.
Read more about the UK’s climate change targets.
“It was worth it”
Helen Selman lives with her husband and two children in Chippenham. When they moved into a 1930s semi-trailer, they knew they wanted to undertake home improvements, an upgrade to the heating system, and an extension.
“It wasn’t cheap,” he said. “But since we were doing everything else, and since this was going to be our home forever, it made sense.”
Helen chose an air-source heat pump, but next to it she had a specially designed insulation upgrade, new radiators and brand new underfloor heating.
“With a heat pump, the problem is you have to make sure your home is as insulated as possible,” he explained. “We already had double or triple glazing, we had insulated walls, we were renovating the lofts”.
To help with the project, Helen and her family used old funding from the Renewable Heat Initiative: “The money from the RHI will be repaid quarterly over seven years and will do a lot to cover the costs.”
He said: “It was definitely worth it.”
But he admitted that without his own extension plans and the additional government cash bonus, it might not have happened. “Without an incentive, there are few people who have the cash flow or the passion to do it,” he said.
Building heating accounts for more than a fifth of the UK’s overall greenhouse gas emissions, so there is pressure on the government’s heat and buildings strategy to deliver effective reductions.
Secretary of Affairs and Energy Kwasi Kwarteng said the grants to support the adoption of heat pumps, available from next April, would help reduce the cost of the relatively new technology by 2030.
An air source heat pump costs between £ 6,000 and £ 18,000, depending on the type installed and the size of the property.
While homeowners will be encouraged to switch to a heat pump or other low-carbon technology when their current boiler needs to be replaced, there is no need to remove the still functioning boilers, the government pointed out.
Write in the sunPrime Minister Boris Johnson said, “The green-shirted boiler police will not kick your door with their flip-flops and carrot-tip over your trusty old combi.”
What is a heat pump and how much will it cost me?
Heat pumps extract heat from the air, ground or water, a bit like a refrigerator running in reverse.
They are powered by electricity, so if you have a low-carbon source of electricity, they provide greener heating.
One energy company, Octopus Energy, said it expects homeowners to pay around £ 2,500 for the cost of installing a heat pump, roughly equivalent to the cost of a new gas boiler. The government subsidy would cover the rest.
But many homes will require an upgrade in their energy efficiency, including insulation, before installing one.
Read more: Should I buy a heat pump and how much will it cost me?
The bulk of the £ 3.9 billion funding will be invested in decarbonising public buildings, insulating and installing new heating systems in social and low-income housing and providing clean heating networks for houses not suitable for heat pumps.
The plan also includes:
- £ 3.45bn to decarbonise buildings in England and Wales, including social housing and district heating schemes
- £ 60 million to drive technological innovation to develop clean heating systems that are smaller, easier to install and cheaper to run. This money will come from a previously announced innovation fund
Independent climate think tank E3G said setting the phasing out date for new fossil fuel boilers is “a world-leading achievement” and the commitment to reduce heat pump costs by 2030 must be welcomed.
However, funding was insufficient to meet the government’s emissions reduction targets, program leader Pedro Guertler said.
“On energy efficiency alone, the public investment announced today is £ 2 billion below what is promised in the Conservative manifesto for 2025,” he said.
Ed Miliband, the shadow trade secretary, described the strategy as “poor, unambitious and totally inadequate”, adding that Labor had pledged to spend £ 6 billion a year on low-carbon insulation and heating. carbon.
Liberal Democrats described the heating plan as “a kick in the teeth for families across the country facing skyrocketing energy bills this winter.”
It’s another piece of the puzzle to calm the mood for Boris Johnson.
First, it inserts a world-leading policy that stops the sale of gasoline cars by 2030.
Now put another piece: no new gas boilers after 2035. It’s another trending initiative that other nations are sure to follow.
There is a problem though. Because by that date, in the middle of the next decade, the Prime Minister has already pledged to reduce overall emissions by 78% from 1990 levels.
Energy experts say it simply won’t happen unless it provides much broader incentives for people to insulate their homes and buy heat pumps to replace their gas boilers.
A group of researchers estimates that it will have to invest nearly another £ 10 billion over three years to reach its net zero targets.
They hope the chancellor will fill in that piece of the puzzle in his spending review next week.
Industry sources welcomed the new strategy.
The Confederation of British Industry said it will help members prepare for future changes, but its chief political director, Matthew Fell, has called for “a clear delivery plan for consumers, businesses and local authorities.”
Scottish Power’s chief executive Keith Anderson said it will boost demand for electric heating, “allowing the industry to accelerate the supply of electrification and quickly reduce upfront costs.”
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