Government proposals to encourage low carbon heating systems are good but not good enough, critics said today.
The proposals, published in a press release late last night, include grants of £5,000 to replace gas-fired boilers with heat pumps.
But the three-year subsidy, worth £450m, would cover a maximum of 90,000 pumps. The prime minister has set a target of 600,000 by 2028.
Mike Childs, head of science at Friends of the Earth, said the scheme would incentivise only the richest households.
“Of course this is presented to look fantastic, and with industry backing, but a quick glance reveals it to be quite modest.
“£450 million pounds delivered via individual £5,000 grants means 90,000 heat pump installations over three years. That just isn’t very much, and won’t meet the prime minister’s ambition of 600,000 a year by 2028.
“Investment will drive down the cost of heat pumps, and technical innovation plus skills training is a part of this, but so is scale. These grants will only incentivise the best-off households.”
“£950 million pounds over three years for the home upgrade scheme just won’t drive the scale of energy efficiency needed in both private and rented sectors. This is a start, it’s just not a very good one when the many benefits of a really generous scheme are abundantly clear: from warm, healthy homes to slashed emissions, with jobs to boot.”
Kate Blagojevic, head of climate at Greenpeace UK, said:
“While £5,000 grants and a 2035 boiler phase out date are a decent start, they aren’t ambitious enough to adequately tackle emissions from homes or support low income households to switch.
“What’s also missing from these reports is any mention of a programme to insulate the UK’s millions of draughty homes. Low carbon heating must go hand in hand with improving energy efficiency, you can’t have one without the other.
“Then it’s up to the chancellor to deliver the required £12bn a year in his Spending Review to make cutting emissions from homes a reality. Without these other key elements, the strategy will be like a builder who comes without his tools and simply won’t be up the job.”
Chris Stark, chief executive of the Climate Change Committee, said:
“We didn’t have a plan before, now we do.
“This is a substantial step forward that lays out clearly the government’s ambitions to cut emissions across the economy over the coming 15 years and beyond.
“It provides much more clarity about what lies ahead for businesses and individuals and the key actions required in the coming decades to deliver a Net Zero nation.
“It also gives the UK a strong basis to be president of the forthcoming COP26 summit. The critical next step is turning words into deeds
“We have begun to assess the strategy in more detail and the extent to which the policies proposed in this strategy deliver their ambition.”
The proposals are part of the heat and buildings strategy, expected since March 2021. The total of new funding in the strategy amounts to more than £3.9 billion, the government said. This includes a £60m innovation fund to make clean heat systems smaller and easier to install and cheaper to run, it said.
The statement said government and industry would work together to “help meet the aim of heat pumps costing the same to buy and run as fossil fuel boilers by 2030, with big cost reductions of between a quarter and a half by 2025 expected as the market expands and technology develops”.
This would support the target for all new heating systems installed in UK homes by 2035 to use low carbon technologies, such as heat pumps, or use new technologies, such as hydrogen-ready boilers, the statement said.
A decision on the potential role for hydrogen in buildings would be made by 2026, the statement said.
The prime minister said:
“As we clean up the way we heat our homes over the next decade, we are backing our brilliant innovators to make clean technology like heat pumps as cheap to buy and run as gas boilers – supporting thousands of green jobs.
“Our new grants will help homeowners make the switch sooner, without costing them extra, so that going green is the better choice when their boiler needs an upgrade.”
The business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng said:
“Recent volatile global gas prices have highlighted the need to double down on our efforts to reduce Britain’s reliance on fossil fuels and move away from gas boilers over the coming decade to protect consumers in long term.
“As the technology improves and costs plummet over the next decade, we expect low carbon heating systems will become the obvious, affordable choice for consumers. Through our new grant scheme, we will ensure people are able to choose a more efficient alternative in the meantime.”