The problems with the PM’s plan to scrap gas boilers in 14 years
What the PM wants: No more gas boilers from 2035.
How much it will cost: £500million of taxpayers’ cash on new hydrogen tech
Boris Johnson, pictured today, is planning a ban on all new gas boilers by 2035 and more incentives to use green alternatives as he pushes to hit the government’s net zero target.
High costs of alternatives: A new gas-fired boiler costs about £1,500 with installation, compared to £19,000 for a ground source heat pump or £10,000 for an air source heat pump
Still in development: Hydrogen boilers are not even on the market yet, with Worcester Bosch making a prototype – and their cost is therefore unknown
Effect on house prices: Boilers are normally installed in new builds before people move in, meaning the cost would be factored into the house price
Safety concerns: Hydrogen is highly flammable and could cause an explosion if not installed correctly
Resistant to change: The public are ‘poorly prepared for the costs and disruption’ of replacing gas boilers, the Social Market Foundation said
Boris Johnson is planning a ban on all new gas boilers by 2035 and more incentives to use green alternatives as he pushes to hit the government’s net zero target – but the plans will hit millions in the pocket to the tune of up to £15,000 as energy experts branded the target ‘pie in the sky’.
The Prime Minister is expected to unveil his long-awaited Heat and Buildings Strategy next week.
Proposals are believed to include a ‘boiler upgrade scheme’ and grants for consumers looking to install a heat pump.
But critics say the £5,000 cash from the Government will still leave millions out of pocket because the alternatives such as hydrogen boilers, ground source heat pumps and biomass boilers cost between £10,000 and £20,000 to buy and install.
Millions of people, already in the midst of a cost of living crisis stoked by rising inflation, also face new levies on their gas bills as part of plans to phase out conventional boilers by 2035.
And as the UK’s skills shortage hits all areas of British life, Charlie Mullins from Pimlico Plumbers, believes putting new energy sources into 30million-plus homes ‘would keep the country’s current crop of heating engineers busy for a hundred years’.
There are also major questions about how some of these new solutions such as ground source heat pumps, can work for the millions of small homes and flats in Britain’s cities because they need a hole between 50ft and 300ft deep – or long trenches measuring around 7,000sqft in the garden or grounds.
And cheaper alternatives such as solar panels are not as dear, but Britain’s changeable weather means they are simply not as reliable.
Charlie Mullins, boss of Pimlico Plumbers, said of the boiler scrappage target recently: ‘We need targets that relate to the real world, targets that when you look at the technology and infrastructure available are realistic. That’s what will get the UK greener, and if we keep up paying lip service to pie in the sky stuff it will take longer because nobody will engage with the issue.
‘Heat pumps cannot currently produce the energy to heat water sufficiently, and there is even the suggestion that they may increase the risks from Legionnaires Disease, and as far as hydrogen boilers are concerned, they are only in the prototype stage, so you can’t just go out and get one.
‘And even if you could there’s the small problem of the lack of a hydrogen pipeline so that the green gas would be available to households and businesses.
‘And finally the massive effort it would take to get the UK’s 30 odd million dwellings swapped out from old gas to green energy on the government’s timetable would keep the country’s current crop of heating engineers busy for a hundred years.
‘We already have a massive skills shortage in this area as a result of decades of undertraining and sending everyone to university to study English or sociology rather than signing up more apprentices in the building trades. So my message to ministers is – get real if you want anything to change.’
There are also major doubts that Britain’s workforce of heating engineers is large enough, or has the expertise and training, to change heating systems in most of Britain’s homes.
Boris Johnson wants to push Britain towards new sources of energy for homes, including hydrogen, left, and ground source heat pumps, right
Energy crisis deepens: National Grid reveal fire-damaged power cable between UK and France wont be fully restored for TWO YEARS
A power link between France and the UK which was damaged by a fire in September will not be full repaired for two years.
The National Grid dropped the news late last night in an update on its website.
It said that ‘extensive work’ was needed at the site in Sellindge, Kent, which put paid to the previous idea it could be fixed by next March.
Instead the IFA connector will not be fully operational and up to 2000MW capacity until October 2023.
The National Grid’s update said: ‘We have been able to reduce the outage time of 1000MW of capacity at the IFA interconnector so that it will come back to service on October 20, ahead of the October 23 date we had previously published.
Following a detailed assessment on the 1000MW of capacity that is offline due to damage caused by a fire at our site in Sellindge in September, we need to carry out extensive work to safely return it to service.
‘We will bring 500MW back to service from October 2022 through to May 2023. This will result in 1500MW of available capacity going into next Winter.
‘We will then undertake further work in order to bring the full 2000MW back by October 2023.
‘We are completely focused on getting IFA safely returned to service as soon as possible and ensuring we are able to support security of supply.’
Builders have already been given a 2025 cut-off for fitting conventional gas boilers in new-build homes. But Boris will now set a firm date of 2035 to completely prohibit the installation of new gas boilers.
Ahead of the announcement, Mr Johnson will take his Cabinet colleagues on an ‘away day’ to discuss the green agenda somewhere in south-west England.
Will hydrogen be dangerous in my home? If boilers are not installed correctly they could EXPLODE
Hydrogen boilers could be a staple of British homes by 2030 – but it would mean replacing 25million existing units
Hydrogen boilers would work in a similar way to their gas equivalents, according Boiler Guide.
They would be installed the same way and look similar, with connection to the gas network.Boiler Guide states: ‘Only a handful of components, such as the flame detector and burner, would need to be replaced to suit hydrogen.’
An article on the website states production is ‘not cheap,’ and warns it can emit carbon.
There are also warnings about the volatile nature of hydrogen, which could result in explosions and leaks that are difficult to detect.
Boiler Guide states: ‘Because of its high energy content, hydrogen gas is a highly flammable and volatile substance which makes it a risky fuel to work with.
‘Hydrogen is incredibly flammable which makes it a dangerous fuel if not handled correctly. There is also no smell to hydrogen so sensors are required to detect leaks.’
The strategy unveiling will comes just ahead of the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow, which as host the PM will want to prove the UK’s commitment to hitting its target for net zero emissions by 2050.
There are also expected to be plans for shifts to green transport and investment in emerging sectors of the economy.
Homeowners are set to be offered a £5,000 ‘boiler upgrade grant’ it they choose to switch to a heat pump early.
This is an increase on the £4,000 subsidy known as the Clean Heat Grant – although some insiders have suggested the figure could have rise to £7,000.
The devices, however, cost around £10,000 and need to be either installed in the ground or outside the house. Concerns have been raised about their effectiveness in older buildings and blocks of flats.
Ministers are looking at reducing the cost of heat pumps after complaints that affordability was keeping some consumers from taking up the option and simply replacing their old gas boiler instead.
The Government is also exploring ways to enable or require new natural gas boilers to be easily convertible to use hydrogen by 2026.
Some hydrogen-ready models are available on the market, but questions over their practicality remain. Other alternatives to gas boilers include electric or electric-combi boilers, central and biomass boilers.
A Government spokesman said: ‘We want to encourage people to take up more efficient technologies such as heat pumps and electric vehicles by removing levies on electricity over time, working with industry to drive down costs of technologies and ensure they are as affordable as current options.’
The International Energy Authority – which this week warned that the current fuel crisis has been exacerbated by a lack renewable energy spending – estimates that $1.2 trillion of investment in hydrogen will be required by 2030 if global net zero targets are to be met by 2050.
By this date, hydrogen technologies should be able to eliminate as much as one-tenth of carbon dioxide emissions.
Last year the Prime Minister announced a 10-point ‘green industrial revolution, which he says will create 250,000 jobs and cut Britain’s carbon emissions.
One of the most ambitious elements of the proposal is a plan to produce five gigawatts of hydrogen by 2030 – even hoping to heat an entire town with the low-carbon fuel by the end of the decade.
The proposal would see 25million gas boilers replaced with hydrogen or ‘hydrogen-ready,’ boilers over the next 20 years – at a rate of 600,000 a year by 2028.
External pipeworks that deliver the hydrogen to homes and boilers will need to be changed, because hydrogen is a less dense gas – and it is often compressed and stored under high-pressure so it has sufficient energy content for processes.
But academics have cast doubt over how effective hydrogen could be as a replacement, amid warnings that the Government could be getting ‘carried away’.
Dr Richard Lowes from the University of Essex warned at the time: ‘Getting to a sustainable heat system demands rapid and major interventions, it is a huge challenge and there is simply no time for delay.
How the move to net zero will change our homes
Moves to cut emissions to net zero to tackle the climate crisis will transform every part of life by the 2030s, including how we live in our homes.
Some of the changes will not be that obvious: renewables such as offshore wind increasingly help power our homes, but we cannot tell that as we run our lights and appliances or charge gadgets.
Appliances and lights will be highly energy efficient and could even be “smart” – for example the freezer could be linked up to the grid so it can be told to power down briefly to help meet a surge in demand during a World Cup match.
Homes will have smart meters which can encourage people to use electricity when supplies are high, or could even do so automatically, for example to charge up electric cars.
Households with driveways and cars are likely to have a charge point on the outside of their house to power up their electric vehicle.
But it is in heating, keeping homes warm, and even cooking where householders will most obviously feel the shift to a zero carbon world.
Tackling climate change spells an end to the carbon polluting gas boilers that heat the majority of UK homes, as well as oil boilers which some off-grid homes currently use.
They are most likely to be replaced by heat pumps or district heat networks which pipe hot water in underground pipes to bring heat to homes from a central source, such as an energy from waste plant or even former mines.
Heat pumps are installed in individual houses and are powered by electricity, working a bit like a fridge in reverse to generate heat from the outside air, or sometimes the ground, to provide heating and hot water in the home.
Air source heat pumps look like an air conditioning unit on the outside of buildings, and may need bigger radiators or underfloor heating to work best.
They work more efficiently in buildings that are energy efficient and well-insulated – so there is a need for homes, including old, Victorian draughty properties, to be transformed to make them cosier.
There is also potential to replace gas boilers with hydrogen, or even a hybrid of hydrogen boilers and heat pumps, but they will need efficient homes too to reduce the demand for hydrogen which has to be manufactured.
So whatever type of house people live in and however it is heated, by the 2030s it will have to be much cosier than many are today, with double or triple glazing, draught proofing and high levels of loft and wall insulation.
‘We are in no doubt that decarbonising the heat sector will be extremely difficult but it is possible using known technologies. The idea that the gas grid can simply be switched to run on hydrogen remains deeply uncertain from both a cost and technical perspective.
Dr Lowes warned the Government should expect that ‘low carbon gas, including hydrogen, may not prove viable at scale’.
Speaking to the FT, he warned against getting ‘carried away,’ over hydrogen’s possibilities.
The University of Exeter warned companies ‘with existing interests around fossil fuel heat were overselling the idea of converting the UK’s existing gas infrastructure to run on low carbon gases such as hydrogen.’
In September 2020 David Cebon, a professor of engineering at Cambridge University, told The Times: ‘Much scientific evidence shows that widespread adoption of hydrogen (instead of electricity) for heating and heavy vehicles would be detrimental to the UK’s economy, its energy security and its decarbonisation commitments.’
Natural gas heats the vast majority of UK homes, but contributes around a fifth of the country’s carbon emissions.
There is potential to replace gas boilers with hydrogen, or even a hybrid of hydrogen boilers and heat pumps, but they will need energy efficient homes to reduce the demand for hydrogen which has to be manufactured.
Experts online have also warned that heating engineers would need to be retrained in order to handle hydrogen boilers and test them safely.
Tim Harwood, who is in charge of hydrogen projects at Northern Gas Networks, which owns local gas grids in north-east England, told the Financial Times much of the possible disruption caused would depend on how many hydrogen-ready boilers have been installed in homes when the switch comes.
He said if the government would mandate these types of boilers in homes, ‘they are easily convertible to hydrogen when the time comes by just simply changing a few small parts and probably half an hour disruption’.
Citizens Advice has also warned new meters will have to be made when the change comes, to ensure people are billed correctly.
Billing methodology will also need to change to reflect the energy used in a home, rather than the volume of gas delivered.
Another alternative to gas boilers is heat pumps or district heat networks which can pipe hot water in underground pipes to bring heat to homes from a central source, such as an energy from waste plant or even former mines.
Heat pumps are installed in individual houses and are powered by electricity, working a bit like a fridge in reverse to generate heat from the outside air, or sometimes the ground, to provide heating and hot water in the home.
Greenpeace UK is not fully behind the idea of converting heating systems to hydrogen either.
The environmental group’s head of politics Rebecca Newsom said Boris’ announcement marked a ‘turning point on climate action,’ but warned: ‘It’s a shame the Prime Minister remains fixated on other speculative solutions, such as nuclear and hydrogen from fossil fuels, that will not be taking us to zero emissions anytime soon, if ever.
‘But although there are some significant question marks and gaps, overall this is a big step forward for tackling the climate emergency.’
Making his announcement in November last year, Mr Johnson said: ‘Although this year has taken a very different path to the one we expected, I haven’t lost sight of our ambitious plans to level up across the country.
‘My ten-point plan will create, support and protect hundreds of thousands of green jobs, whilst making strides towards net zero by 2050.
‘Our green industrial revolution will be powered by the wind turbines of Scotland and the North East, propelled by the electric vehicles made in the Midlands and advanced by the latest technologies developed in Wales, so we can look ahead to a more prosperous, greener future.’
How much will gas boiler alternatives cost you?
GROUND SOURCE HEAT PUMPS (£14,000 – £19,000)
Ground source heat pumps use pipes buried in the garden to extract heat from the ground, which can then heat radiators, warm air heating systems and hot water.
They circulate a mixture of water and antifreeze around a ground loop pipe. Heat from the ground is absorbed into the fluid and then passes through a heat exchanger.
Installation costs between £14,000 to £19,000 depending on the length of the loop, and running costs will depend on the size of the home and its insulation.
Users may be able to receive payments for the heat they generate through the Government’s renewable heat incentive. The systems normally come with a two or three year warranty – and work for at least 20 years, with a professional check every three to five years.
Ground source heat pumps circulate a mixture of water and antifreeze around a ground loop pipe. Heat from the ground is absorbed into the fluid and then passes through a heat exchanger, and running costs will depend on the size of the home
AIR SOURCE HEAT PUMPS (£11,000)
Air source heat pumps absorb heat from the outside air at low temperature into a fluid to heat your house and hot water. They can still extract heat when it is as cold as -15C (5F), with the fluid passing through a compressor which warms it up and transfers it into a heating circuit.
They extract renewable heat from the environment, meaning the heat output is greater than the electricity input – and they are therefore seen as energy efficient.
There are two types, which are air-to-water and air-to-air, and installing a system costs £9,000 to £11,000, depending on the size of your home and its insulation.
A typical three-bedroom home is said to be able to save £2,755 in ten years by using this instead of a gas boiler.
Air source heat pumps absorb heat from the outside air at low temperature into a fluid to heat your house and hot water. They extract renewable heat from the environment, meaning the heat output is greater than the electricity input
HYDROGEN BOILERS (£1,500 – £5,000)
Hydrogen boilers are still only at the prototype phase, but they are being developed so they can run on hydrogen gas or natural gas – so can therefore convert without a new heating system being required.
The main benefit of hydrogen is that produces no carbon dioxide at the point of use, and can be manufactured from either water using electricity as a renewable energy source, or from natural gas accompanied by carbon capture and storage.
A hydrogen-ready boiler is intended to be a like-for-like swap for an existing gas boiler, but the cost is unknown, with estimates ranging from £1,500 to £5,000.
The boiler is constructed and works in mostly the same way as an existing condensing boiler, with Worcester Bosch – which is producing a prototype – saying converting a hydrogen-ready boiler from natural gas to hydrogen will take a trained engineer around an hour.
This graphic from the Government’s Hy4Heat innovation programme shows how hydrogen homes would be powered
SOLAR PHOTOVOLTAIC PANELS (£4,800)
Solar photovoltaic panels generate renewable electricity by converting energy from the sun into electricity, with experts saying they will cut electricity bills.
Options include panels fitted on a sloping south-facing roof or flat roof, ground-standing panels or solar tiles – with each suitable for different settings. They are made from layers of semi-conducting material, normally silicon, and electrons are knocked loose when light shines on the material which creates an electricity flow.
The cells can work on a cloudy day but generate more electricity when the sunshine is stronger. The electricity generated is direct current (DC), while household appliances normally use alternating current (AC) – and an inverter is therefore installed with the system.
The average domestic solar PV system is 3.5 kilowatts peak (kWp) – the rate at which energy is generated at peak performance, such as on a sunny afternoon. A 1kWp set of panels will produce an average of 900kWh per year in optimal conditions, and the cost is £4,800.
Solar photovoltaic panels (left) generate renewable electricity by converting energy from the sun into electricity. Solar water heating systems (right), or solar thermal systems, use heat from the sun to warm domestic hot water
SOLAR WATER HEATING (£5,000)
Solar water heating systems, or solar thermal systems, use heat from the sun to warm domestic hot water.
A conventional boiler or immersion heater can then be used to make the water hotter, or to provide hot water when solar energy is unavailable.
The system works by circulating a liquid through a panel on a roof, or on a wall or ground-mounted system.
The panels absorb heat from the sun, which is used to warm water kept in a cylinder, and those with the system will require a fair amount of roof space receiving direct sunlight for much of the day to make it effectively.
The cost of installing a typical system is between £4,000 and £5,000, but the savings are lower than other options because it is not as effective in the winter months.
BIOMASS BOILERS (£5,000 – £19,000)
Biomass heating systems can burn wood pellets, chips or logs to heat a single room or power central heating and boilers
The renewable energy source of biomass is generated from burning wood, plants and other organic matter such as manure or household waste. It releases carbon dioxide when burned, but much less than fossil fuels.
Biomass heating systems can burn wood pellets, chips or logs to heat a single room or power central heating and hot water boilers.
A stove can also be fitted with a back boiler to provide water heating, and experts say a wood-fuelled biomass boiler could save up to £700 a year compared to a standard electric heating system.
An automatically-fed pellet boiler for an average home costs between £11,000 and £19,000, including installation, flue and fuel store. Manually fed log boiler systems can be slightly cheaper, while a smaller domestic biomass boiler starts at £5,000.
Business News Governmental News Finance News