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British Gas owner calls for mass rollout of hybrid boilers across the UK

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The UK’s largest gas supplier has called on the Government to introduce a “Retrofit Fund” to transition consumers from gas boilers to hybrid heating systems, which use both gas and electricity.

Centrica, which owns British Gas, called for an initial target of 5,000 installations by 2024, followed by a broader rollout in line with the independent Committee on Climate Change’s recommendation to deploy 10 million hybrid heating systems by 2035.

Last year, the Government indicated that it would phase out installations of conventional gas boilers for home heating by the mid-2030s as part of efforts to decarbonise the UK’s economy.

While hybrid systems, which combine small capacity gas boilers with air source heat pumps, do not currently offer a zero carbon solution, they will help to achieve carbon reduction in the short term, Centrica said.

In the long term, hydrogen would replace the natural gas element in a hybrid heating system and enable the system to be an entirely carbon-free option, Centrica said. Hydrogen can be produced in different ways, including through splitting water molecules through a process which - when powered by renewables - is carbon neutral. In reality, the majority of the world’s hydrogen is created from natural gas through a process that releases carbon.

Centrica calls for the Retrofit Fund to run from 2022 to 2024, with the installations targeting the least energy-efficient homes on the grid and those not suitable for a pure heat pump solution.

The company estimates that around 10 million UK households could be eligible for a hybrid heating system and said it could bolster the rollout using its workforce of engineers. Data collected from the 5,000 homes to receive the upgrade could be used to help the Government verify how effective hybrid heating systems can be for decarbonisation efforts. If successful, Centrica wants hybrids to be included in clean heat subsidies from 2025 and the Government to commit to 600,000 installations by 2028.

Chris O’Shea, Centrica’s group chief executive, said: “We want to help our customers transition to low carbon heating in a way that best suits their lifestyle and is affordable, and causes the least disruption.”

“A range of technologies are needed for the transition, and hybrid heating systems should be considered as one of them. The introduction of a Retrofit Fund will enable us to develop the ‘Engineer of the Future’ and Government to test and learn about the significant role hybrids can play as a bridge towards stronger low carbon solutions, such as hydrogen, and in reaching net zero.”

Earlier this month E3G, Greenpeace and WWF and others asked Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng to avoid rolling out hydrogen-ready boilers.

Doug Parr, policy director at Greenpeace UK, commented: “Carbon capture isn’t zero carbon and at scale has systematically failed after decades of trying.”

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