Boris Johnson ‘puts ban on new gas boilers back by five years to 2040’ after backlash over soaring heating costs

  • Britons are set to be allowed up to five more years before a ban on sales of all new gas boilers comes into force
  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson is looking at delaying the ban by five years to 2040 over soaring ‘net zero’ cost
  • Move would give millions of households more time for new hydrogen boilers and heat-pumps to fall in price
  • It comes amid a mounting backlash over the spiralling cost of Mr Johnson’s so-called green revolution 

Britons are set to be allowed up to five more years before a ban on sales of all new gas boilers comes into force, in a major row-back for Boris Johnson amid a backlash over the soaring cost of ‘net zero’ ahead of the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow later this year.

The Prime Minister is looking at delaying the ban by five years to 2040, in a move which would give millions of UK households more time for new hydrogen boilers and heat-pumps to fall in price, and for businesses to pump more money into shifting people over gradually. 

The public is set to be incentivised to buy an eco-friendly heat-pump next time their boiler breaks down – but the delay to introducing the ban means working boilers could have to be taken out before 2050, or the UK could fail to hit its ‘net zero’ carbon emission targets.

It comes amid a mounting backlash over the spiralling cost of Mr Johnson’s so-called green revolution, with Government insiders fearful that the proposals could add another £400billion on top of the enormous sums accrued during the Covid pandemic.

Hydrogen boilers are one of the possible replacements for gas boilers, with others including ground source or air source heat pumps, but these cost upwards of £14,000 or £11,000 respectively.

Other options include solar photovoltaic panels or solar water heating which both come in at about £5,000 for a full fitting. 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.

Britons are set to be allowed up to five more years before a ban on sales of all new gas boilers comes into force, in a major row-back for Boris Johnson amid a backlash over the soaring cost of ‘net zero’ ahead of the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow later this year (stock image)

The Prime Minister is looking at delaying the ban by five years to 2040, in a move which would give millions of UK households more time for new hydrogen boilers and heat-pumps to fall in price, and for businesses to pump more money into shifting people over gradually

If hydrogen is part of a zero-carbon future, it could have to be produced by electrolysis (as shown above), which sees electric currents passed through water. Another option is for the plants to capture the carbon emissions and pump them underground

The Hy4Heat innovation programme has shown how hydrogen homes would be powered

The UK public are being asked to explore how best to deliver major cuts to emissions in an initiative launched in the run up to crucial UN climate talks.

The scheme by think tank Demos, nature charity WWF, National Grid and Scottish Power, uses an interactive ‘climate calculator’ to allow people to set out their path to a greener future.

It has been launched just over 100 days before the Cop26 climate summit takes place in Glasgow in November, and aims to build on public engagement in the UK Climate Assembly which gathered 100 people from around the country to discuss measures to cut emissions to net zero by 2050.

As part of the UK’s international climate commitments under the Paris Agreement, which was agreed at a UN summit in the French capital in 2015, Britain has committed to cut greenhouse gases by 68 per cent by 2030.

People can use the climate calculator to choose their preferred package of solutions for cutting emissions to curb dangerous global warming, and see the impact of different policies in areas such as home heating, transport and food.

The 28 million homes in the UK contribute more than a third towards the country’s carbon emissions, which must be slashed to ‘net zero’ by 2050 under the Government’s legal obligations.

Ministers had considered issuing millions of households with so-called ‘green cheques’ worth hundreds of pounds to compensate them for making their homes more eco-friendly and offset the cost of higher gas bills – but now only the poorest people in society are set to get grants to cover the cost of swapping. 

As part of the net zero plan – which would decarbonise the economy by 2050 – No10 had been expected to publish in the spring details of the strategy for moving away from gas boilers ahead of Glasgow’s COP26 climate change conference in November. But this has been delayed until the autumn amid mounting alarm about the bill.

The Chancellor – who is already looking for ways to pay back the £400billion cost of the Covid crisis and the £10billion a year required to reform long-term care for the elderly – is understood to have baulked at estimates of hitting net zero at more than £1.4trillion.

The independent Office For Budget Responsibility calculated the cost of making buildings net zero at £400billion, while the bill for vehicles would be £330billion, plus £500billion to clean up power generation and a further £46billion for industry. After energy savings across the economy, this would leave a £400billion bill for the Treasury.

The OBR also warned that the Government would need to impose carbon taxes to make up for the loss of fuel duty and other taxes.

It is the latest claim of tensions between No10 and No11 over the strains on the public purse.

Last week, The Mail on Sunday revealed Mr Sunak had warned that reforms to social care would not be affordable without the introduction of a new dedicated tax, equivalent to an extra 1 per cent on National Insurance. After a backlash, No 10 shelved the plans until the autumn.

There are also ongoing discussions about how to reduce the predicted £4 billion cost of the ‘triple lock’ protecting the value of the state pension, amid fears that a surge in average earnings figures will push it unaffordably high.

Both the increase on National Insurance and extra green costs are controversial within Government because the burden of both fall more heavily on younger people and lower income households.

The summit is expected to bring together more than 100 world leaders to make commitments on how they intend to reach global net zero and limit global warming to 1.5C. 

Hydrogen boilers have not yet hit the market, with Worcester Bosch building this protoype

Smart meters will become redundant if Britain ditches gas boilers in an effort to go green

New smart meters that work on hydrogen boilers will have to be installed in the future 

Allegra Stratton, Mr Johnson’s COP26 spokeswoman, promised that the details will be published before November’s meeting. She said the Prime Minister believed that ‘if we are going to transition to net zero it needs to be in a way the British public understand and are comfortable with’.

A Treasury spokesman said that No10 and No11 were ‘on the same page’ on both the triple lock and the need for an effective, affordable net zero strategy. 

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng provoked anger after admitting smart meters will become redundant if Britain ditches gas boilers in an effort to go green. He said new smart meters that work on hydrogen boilers – a possible future greener alternative to conventional gas boilers – would have to be installed.

The 46-year-old told MPs on the science and technology committee: ‘We are developing prototype smart meters that can be installed to be adapted to hydrogen.’ 

He said current trials looking into the safety and viability of hydrogen boilers will determine whether all homes in Britain with gas boilers can be switched over. But Mr Kwarteng accepted this would mean the end for current smart meters, which measure the flow of gas, because hydrogen and methane are different chemicals.

If deemed safe and effective, hydrogen boilers could replace gas boilers to help the UK meet its target of decarbonising home heating by 2050. But this would make the multi-billion pound, much-delayed rollout of smart meters largely redundant because they cannot measure the flow of hydrogen.  

How much will alternatives to gas boilers cost you to install at home? 

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.

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.

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.

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 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)

 

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.

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