Fury as Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng admits smart meters will be USELESS in hydrogen-powered homes of the future and will all need to be replaced

  • Hydrogen boilers are possible greener alternative to conventional gas boilers 
  • But new smart meters that work on hydrogen boilers will have to be installed
  • Trials will determine whether all homes with gas boilers can be switched over
  • But Mr Kwarteng accepts this would mean the end for current smart meters

The Business Secretary provoked anger today after admitting smart meters will become redundant if Britain ditches gas boilers in an effort to go green.

Kwasi Kwarteng 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.   

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 

Pimlico Plumbers chief executive Scott Mullins (left) said he wanted to ask Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng (right) ‘who he thinks is going to change out all these boilers and install all the new hydrogen meters given the UK’s skills shortage is a huge problem’

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.  

Public will explore how UK can cut emissions over the next decade

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.

Pimlico Plumbers chief executive Scott Mullins told MailOnline today: ‘There is no doubt that ripping out all the current smart meters and replacing them with models suitable for hydrogen is going to take longer and cost consumers more.

‘I’d like to say I’m surprised but I’m not. This is just another example of a lack of joined up thinking when it comes to managing the supply of energy to UK homes.

‘The fact that they are still in the middle of rolling out smart-meters for natural gas, and have no plans to stop even though they are already obsolete, shows a complete lack of common sense.’

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.

Mr Mullins insisted his company, the capital’s largest independent service and maintenance firm, is ‘all for going green and cutting greenhouse gasses’.

But he said there had to be a ‘realistic timetable’ and a process ‘managed properly’ – and ‘right now it doesn’t look like we have either of those things’.

Mr Mullins continued: ‘I’d also like to ask Kwasi who he thinks is going to change out all these boilers and install all the new hydrogen meters given the UK’s skills shortage is a huge problem which, thanks to a lack of new apprentices in training, is getting worse by the day.

‘Looking on the positive side this would be a great opportunity for the government to kick start the careers of thousands of new heating engineers and electricians.

‘Banning the sale of traditional natural gas burning boilers by 2025 seems impossible since the ‘hydrogen-ready’ models are still not available to buy, and of course getting hydrogen gas piped into every home in the UK by 2050 also looks like a huge challenge.’

Science and technology committee chair Greg Clark said that the Government needed to connect the smart meter rollout to the introduction of hydrogen. 

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

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

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

He told the Daily Telegraph: ‘They need to understand the cost that will be incurred to replacing smart meters, which might have only been recently installed and which consumers pay for in their bills.’  

‘The Prime Minister said that we have to be very conscious of not placing an excessive cost burden on consumers in the transition to Net Zero and that’s the right instinct.’ 

Boris Johnson has been considering a range of eco-friendly policies during his tenure such as a ban on new fossil-fuelled cars including hybrids by 2033.

Last week reports emerged that green taxes on cars and planes are likely to be introduced as part of the Government’s delayed Transport Decarbonisation Plan.

A ban on selling HGVs by 2040, cheaper public transport and more electric vehicle charging points are also under consideration.  

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 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 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 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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