UK urged to phase out gas boilers sooner to meet 2050 net zero targets
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The Government’s approach to decarbonising residential heating “lacks clear direction” and current policies are not enough for the UK to meet its 2050 net zero obligations, a group of MPs has said.
The cross-party Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee has published a report calling on the government to bring forward plans to decarbonise heat production in the UK.
It found a lack of clarity around when gas-powered heating systems will be phased out, which will be a key milestone in the transition to low-carbon heating.
Juliet Philips, from climate-change think tank E3G, has said that a firm phase-out date can “send one of the clearest signals to consumers and industry about the direction of travel”.
The report also called for the heat pump market to be scaled up quickly to meet the government’s target of 600,000 heat pumps a year by 2028, and provide support to gas boiler engineers who will be needed to re-skill to undertake this work.
It also called for a public awareness campaign to explain to the public how the heating systems in their homes will change and the potential costs and benefits of this transition.
With gas prices rising to an all-time high over the last few months, many consumers have struggled with high bills, and a raise in the price cap in April could cause financial hardship for many more.
The UK currently has among the oldest and least energy-efficient housing stock in Europe.
Darren Jones, chair of the BEIS Committee, said: “Replacing gas boilers is a huge task and we are not making anywhere near enough progress. As it stands, we will miss our net zero target. The government must act urgently to help speed up delivery and support bill payers and workers who will be affected by the change.
“Bill payers today are deeply worried about their energy costs, with many people struggling to afford to heat their homes. Most people don’t realise that their gas boiler will need to be replaced within the next 10 to 15 years.
“The government and energy companies should explain to bill payers why switching away from gas and insulating our homes is not only important in tackling climate change, but also a route to reducing energy bills. The government also needs to spell out what financial help will be put in place for those who need it most.”
In July 2020, the government announced a £3bn package for British homeowners to make their houses more energy-efficient and improve insulation efforts. The scheme offered households up to £10,000 to insulate their property, but it underperformed badly. The Public Accounts Committee called it a “slam dunk fail” after it failed to draw applicants and was closed after less than a year.
Jones added: “As the government decides on financial help for customers with the cost of their energy bills, they must also come forward with a replacement for the Green Homes Grant.
“Action is needed to improve insulation and energy efficiency in our homes and to step up the pace in delivering low-carbon heating systems, at a lower cost to households than today. Ministers can’t simply leave this to the market – government should tackle the cost of heating our homes in the round and bring forward joined-up policies that address these issues together.
The report welcomed the new Boiler Upgrade Scheme announced in the Heat and Buildings Strategy and makes a series of recommendations to ensure the success of the scheme, including focusing public funds on lower-income households and partnering with industry and trade unions to create jobs and training pathways.
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