Industry responds to the government’s Heat and Buildings Strategy

Industry leaders said the programme is a “step in the right direction” but lacks ambition

Pathway to COP26 report

Heating hits the top news story today following the release from the government of its Heat and Buildings Strategy.

The Strategy lays out a roadmap to tackle emissions in homes and businesses by incentivising homeowners to replace their gas boilers with low carbon heating systems.

But what does the industry think?

A major challenge on the way to net zero 

Energy UK’s Chief Executive Emma Pinchbeck said: “Converting our homes to low carbon heating is a major challenge on the road to Net Zero but one that will help to deliver more comfortable houses heated with affordable clean energy, as well as providing better air quality, reduced emissions, jobs and investment.

“Having a strategy and target in place, with financial support for customers, means our industry can get on with the job of rolling out low carbon heat options like heat pumps and heat networks at scale, driving down costs and increasing the choices on offer for customers.

“The current situation underlines the need to get on with making sure that customers are no longer left exposed from our dependence on gas.”

Decarbonising is a tough nut to crack

David Smith, Chief Executive at Energy Networks Association, said: “Decarbonising heat is a tough nut to crack, but heat pumps and other low carbon technology like it will be key.

“Today’s plan from the government sets the country on the path to a greener future. Central to delivering these plans and impossible without them, are our energy networks which provide the backbone for keeping Britain’s energy flowing.

“We are unlocking choice for customers by preparing gas pipes for hydrogen and the electricity grid for more electric vehicles, heat pumps wind and renewable power.”

It is a good start

Stew Horne, Head of Policy, Energy Saving Trust said: “With the climate emergency upon us, there is no time to waste and we need to take positive action.

“We must make our homes more energy efficient and move away from our reliance on fossil fuels for heating. Heat pumps are an important low carbon heating technology that will help the UK reach its net zero targets and we need real pace and scale in their rollout in our homes.

“The Heat and Buildings Strategy is a good start and sets out the much-needed policies that will make heat pumps more attractive to households and help them to switch over to low carbon heating.”

Prime Minister has succeeded in prioritising the UK’s energy security 

Commenting on the Heat and Buildings Strategy, Sepi Golzari-Munro, Acting Director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, said: This year’s gas price shock has brought home the UK’s vulnerability to the geopolitical whims of Putin’s Russia and other potentially unfriendly regimes.

“But by reducing our dependence on volatile global gas markets and transitioning to clean heating systems, the PM has succeeded in prioritising the UK’s energy security while levelling up the country.”

There is nothing about further supply chain

Joanne Wade, Director of the Association of Decentralised Energy, commented: “We are very happy to see the commitment to effectively end sales of gas boilers by 2035 and the clear ambition to make low carbon the default choice for households.

“To have the funding landscape set out for three years will give the market greater certainty, but I am disappointed that there is nothing about further supply chain support to build skills and de-risk market entry for smaller firms.”

It will not bridge the cost gap between gas boilers and heat pumps

The proposed £5,000 grant will not be enough to bridge the cost gap between gas boilers and heat pumps, the GMB Union said.

Andy Prendergast, GMB National Secretary, said: “This is the wrong plan that ducks the hard questions on the future of home heating.

“Describing this as a plan to drive down the cost of clean heat’ is blatantly misleading. Heat pumps are unsuitable for many homes and we need to invest far more in realistic clean alternatives like hydrogen.

“Ministers are letting down customers who will see their bills rocket and the skilled gas workforce who will see their jobs go to the wall.”

Mr Prendergast added that without a proper industrial plan, today’s announcement “will deliver nothing but rocketing bills and unemployment.”

To be successful, the proposal needs more generous grants

In response to the government’s long-awaited strategy, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) said that Ministers appeared to be heading in the right direction but had much further to go.

Luke Murphy, IPPR Associate Director and Head of its Environmental Justice Commission, said: “Homes account for 13% of the UK’s carbon emissions and so far precious little has been done to reduce their contribution to the climate crisis.

“The government’s proposal to provide public funding to support grants for households to upgrade their boilers is therefore encouraging, but to be successful there needs to be much higher public funding and more generous grants, particularly for fuel-poor households than what appears to be on offer.”

Step in the right direction

Responding to the Heat and Buildings Strategy, Mark Howard, Heat Expert from the non-for-profit centre of energy expertise Regen welcomed the commitment to phase out fossil fuel boilers as “step in the right direction.”

He added: “What we now need is a programme of long-term investment in well-insulated homes as a way of cutting bills, creating future-proof jobs and providing certainty for industry and homeowners.”

It’s a start, just not a very good one

Mike Childs, Head of Science at Friends of the Earth, said: “Of course this is presented to look fantastic, and with industry backing, but a quick glance reveals it to be quite modest. £450 million 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.”

Mr Childs added that £950 million over three years for the home upgrade scheme will not drive the scale of energy efficiency needed in both private and rented sectors.

He hailed the scheme “a start, just not a very good one”.

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