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Air Source Heat Pumps In Newly Built Homes After Gas Boilers Are To Be Banned in 2023 to Tackle Climate Change and Reduce Household Emissions

Gas boilers will be banned in all newly built homes within three years under the government’s plan to tackle climate change.

The move, two years earlier than previously planned, was initially included in a ten-point initiative announced yesterday to help Britain reach its target of net zero emissions by 2050. The “future homes standard” will require all new homes to have low-carbon alternatives, such as electric heat pumps.

Although the reference to the 2023 deadline was removed from the official document within an hour of The Times approaching the government for clarification, and its inclusion explained as a “technical error”, a government source later confirmed that the ban was being brought forward.

“It wasn’t supposed to be in there,” the source said. “There hasn’t been any stakeholder engagement on it yet but it’s definitely the plan.”

In 2019, when the government first proposed banning the sale of gas boilers from 2025, it acknowledged that there would be practical challenges to be overcome with a target of 300,000 new homes to build a year. At present, about 30,000 heat pumps are installed each year.

In a consultation document, the Ministry of Housing noted that “there may not be the necessary supply chains, trained installers and product availability needed for every home-builder”.

A report by the Committee on Climate Change the same year said: “It is not feasible to ramp up installation rates of heat pumps straight away to the current level of gas boiler sales . . . due to the lack of market development but also because there are not enough qualified heat pump installers.”

Nonetheless, Bean Beanland, of the Heat Pump Federation, believes that the industry can fill the gap.

He said: “The industry will have to ramp up production by between 3 to 5 per cent a year to meet the increased demand but that is not unrealistic . . . in the new-build market where homes are more standard, the installation work is quite easy compared to retrofits, so with good designs it can be done by competent plumbers and electricians.”

The National House Building Council said: “For both housebuilders and new home buyers, the no-gas home will represent a generational shift in how dwellings are heated.”

The ten-point plan also signalled that replacement gas boilers for existing homes would be phased out by 2035, although they could be replaced with a “hydrogen ready” boiler that would initially burn natural gas and switch to hydrogen when it became available.

Gas Boilers to be replaced with air source heat pumps

It promised to “set a clear path that sees the gradual move away from fossil fuel boilers over the next 15 years as individuals replace their appliances and are offered a lower-carbon, more efficient alternative”. It also includes a commitment to increase the heat pump installations to 600,000 a year by 2028.

Boris Johnson is unsure whether hydrogen boilers or heat pumps are the best solution. The plan says the government wants to “leave open the choice as to whether we ultimately pursue hydrogen heating, an electrified heating system, or a mixture of both”.

Next year the government will publish a “delivery plan” setting out “key milestones” towards achieving the commitment to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030.

Environmental groups and industry bodies said that the government would have to do more to persuade drivers to switch to electric cars.

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the trade body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said a successful switch to electric cars depended on reassuring customers that they could afford them, recharge them and that they meet their mobility needs.

Lord Deben, chairman of the Committee on Climate Change, said the plan “must now be turned into a detailed road map so we all know what’s coming”.

Rebecca Newsom, Greenpeace UK’s head of politics, said: “While the government has taken a big step for our climate by ruling out new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2030, behind the headline is a gaping hole in the funding needed to put us on track to net zero.

“Boris Johnson would do well to learn from the lessons of the UK’s success in offshore wind — after 20 years of sustained support, we now have one of the most competitive renewable industries in the world.”

The prime minister put “levelling up” at the heart of his ten-point green plan, with a promise to support 250,000 new jobs centred on Britain’s “industrial heartlands” (Emily Gosden writes).

He highlighted the northeast, Yorkshire and the Humber, the West Midlands, Scotland and Wales as areas that would “drive forward the green industrial revolution”.

Delivering on this pledge will be a key part of the Tory strategy for retaining the “red wall” of traditional Labour seats that turned blue in last year’s general election.

Carbon capture and storage (CCS), hydrogen and offshore wind are likely to be central to the vision, with a series of proposed projects already promising to create tens of thousands of jobs.

The government is committed to supporting four CCS “clusters” and said that these could be in Humber, Merseyside, Grangemouth, Teesside, and Port Talbot — areas with significant heavy industry that will need carbon capture technology to reduce emissions.

Two of the most advanced plans, backed by coalitions of Britain’s biggest energy companies, are the “Zero Carbon Humber” and “Net Zero Teesside” projects, which plan to use shared infrastructure to dispose of waste carbon dioxide in an aquifer in the North Sea.

The Zero Carbon Humber project will build significant hydrogen production facilities and says it could create more than 20,000 new jobs, while Net Zero Teesside says it could support 5,500 jobs in construction alone, and enable 7,000 more.

Sites in the north and Scotland are also frontrunners for trials of using hydrogen in homes. A world-first project to supply 300 homes with hydrogen in Fife could be approved soon, while there are plans to begin injecting hydrogen into the gas grid serving 670 homes near Gateshead, and for a further project to follow in the northwest.

If such trials succeed, then the industry has suggested the eventual conversion of 3.7 million homes across the north including in Leeds, Newcastle, York, Manchester and Liverpool.

Another major focus of the levelling-up agenda is to secure more British jobs building parts for wind turbines, many of which are made overseas.

The government has pledged £160 million to build modern ports and manufacturing sites and hopes to attract more factories in ports such as Hull, which is already home to a turbine blade factory and is ideally located to serve wind farms in the North Sea.

How will the government deliver its pledge to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030? It has committed £582 million in grants for plug-in cars and £1.3 billion to install more charging points but there is no clear plan for hitting the 2030 deadline.

In June the Committee on Climate Change recommended a California-style “zero-emission vehicle mandate”, under which carmakers would have to sell a rising proportion of zero-emission vehicles as a share of their overall sales.

The government’s plan puts off the difficult decisions on implementation, saying that next year it would “publish a delivery plan setting out key milestones”.

What about solar and onshore wind?
 These are among the cheapest forms of renewable energy but there is only one reference in the document to onshore wind and solar projects being “eligible to bid for CFD [contract for difference] contracts” which guarantee a certain price for electricity. This will please investors in such projects but lacks detail on how many will be approved.

Is there enough funding overall? Boris Johnson says in his foreword that it will “mobilise” £12 billion of government investment. But only £4 billion of the money is new.

PWC has estimated that up to £400 billion of investment is required in the next decade for the UK to meet the net-zero target.

What about new nuclear power stations? The document is silent on the proposed £20 billion Sizewell C plant in Suffolk, despite reports this month that the government was preparing to give it the green light. It pledges £525 million of funding for new nuclear reactors but sets no firm targets for actually delivering them. More details may come in an energy white paper due to be published in the next few weeks.

This article appeared in The Times on 19th November 2020

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