Government U-turn on gas boiler ban in new homes welcome but further clarity needed to protect consumers, says Gas Users Organisation, which speaks for the 24 million households who use gas for their central heating.
In a remarkable last minute change, the government last week seemed to drop plans to ban gas boilers in new properties from 2023, according to reports from the BBC. See below notes to editors for the details.
In 2019, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, announced in his spring statement that there should be a ban on new fossil fuel central heating systems from 2025.
According to the BBC, on Wednesday 18th November, the 10 Downing Street website announced a pledge to bring that ban forward by two years to 2023, as part of the pre-publication announcement of the government’s "Ten point plan for a green industrial revolution".
However, the published version of the document had no mention of a 2023 target, and weakened the commitment so that new systems only need to be "zero carbon" ready.
Andrew Newman, Technical Director, of the Gas Users Organisation explains: "The ban on new connections to the gas grid was always foolish. There are positive commitments in the 10 point plan towards future use of hydrogen as a green gas, and we need more clarity from the Westminster government that hydrogen ready gas boilers are considered to be a "zero carbon ready" option, as they should be, and therefore permissible in new builds after 2025.
"Gas central heating is incredibly popular with customers, because it is clean, convenient and relatively cheap. Furthermore, there is a strong correlation that shows that homes that lack a connection to the gas grid, and more likely to be in fuel poverty.
"The Westminster government’s own poverty reduction target includes a plan to increase connection to the gas grid, to take families out of poverty. So it has always been bizarre that they have a simultaneous plan to isolate homes from the grid for new properties.
"The best plan for reducing carbon emissions from domestic heating is to keep the gas grid, but to move to green gas. Earlier this year, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Hydrogen, recommended that the government should mandate the installation of hydrogen ready boilers from 2025, replacing the government prohibition on new gas connections in new-builds from that date.
"What is welcome about the 10 Point plan, is that it makes explicit commitments to green gas. The Prime Minister’s introduction even refers to people cooking their breakfast using hydrogen, which presupposes a domestic gas supply. It also promises to leave "open the choice as to whether we ultimately pursue hydrogen heating, an electrified heating system, or a mixture of both, whilst we continue to pilot the options". The best option for consumers is a green gas system, based on hydrogen.
"We also seek clarity from the government that the pledge for 600000 heat pump installations by 2028 is targeted towards the 4 million properties that are not on the gas grid, where heat pumps may be a very sensible alternative to expensive oil fired heating, or LPG. There is a danger that this pledge towards heat pumps can undermine investor confidence in the future of gas.
"What is clear from the 10 Point Plan, is that it will be several decades before all renewable electricity would be available, and in the absence of sufficient renewable electricity to drive them, any switch to heat pumps would therefore be premature."