New gas boilers could be banned within a decade as report says UK must do more to cut carbon emissions to zero
- A radical report has called on gas boilers to be axed by 2033 – two years early
- Former science minister Chris Skidmore said Britain is now in a ‘net zero race’
- But his review said the UK’s net zero revolution could cost homes up to £6,000
- Recommendations include a fivefold boom in solar panels numbers by 2035
New gas boilers should be banned within a decade in a move that could cost cash-strapped Britons thousands, a report into the UK’s net zero policy has warned.
The review, carried out by Tory MP Chris Skidmore and published on Friday, urges the Government to phase out gas boilers by 2033, rather than 2035.
Demanding Britain kick-starts its own ‘onshore wind revolution’, the report also calls for a five-fold increase in solar panels, in a bid to free the UK from the shackles of Russian energy dependence amid the war in Ukraine.
But the study has warned the nation’s net zero revolution, which would include replacing boilers and buying electric cars, will cost households £4,000 to £6,000 each by 2040, with the average saving by 2050 hitting between £400 and £6,000.
And in a fresh blow, the review also claims that almost 500,000 households would save nothing in the long run, unless more Government aid is provided.
A major review into Britain’s net zero plans has called for a ban on gas boilers to be brought forward by two years in a bid to cut the nation’s carbon emissions (stock picture)
Writing in the Telegraph, Mr Skidmore said the UK is now in a ‘net zero race’ with other countries that have followed its lead – and is at risk of losing without a ‘new approach’ to carbon emission-cutting.
He added: ‘There is an active, strategic choice to be made. Does the UK wish to compete in the net zero race, with the chance to lead, or do we wish to simply observe from the sidelines?’
Mr Skidmore was commissioned by Liz Truss’s short-lived government in September to consider how the country could deliver ‘maximum economic growth and investment’ alongside the nation’s climate change ambitions, while also considering the need for energy security and the costs for the public.
As well as calling for the scrapping of gas boilers to happen earlier than planned, the report also recommended plans to increase solar and onshore wind generation, including a target of increasing solar generation fivefold by 2035.
Mr Skidmore said insisted nation’s net-zero energy ambition benchmarks were feasible, according to conversations with industry figures.
To replace gas heating, the report calls for the Government to ‘turbocharge’ the adoption of heat pumps – devices that can absorb heat from the air or ground.
The Government’s target is to install 600,000 heat pumps a year by 2028.
But it is making slow progress in replacing gas boilers. Around 1.8million gas boilers are sold each year in the UK, compared with just 55,000 heat pumps.
The 350-page report has so far received a warm welcome from several campaign groups, with the Government urged to heed the review’s recommendations.
But its publication comes amid a debate over how and when the nation’s net zero plans should come into force – with the war in Ukraine having plunged Britain into a cost-of-living crisis.
Chris Skidmore (pictured), the former science minister, set out his conclusions in his ‘Net Zero Review’ – commissioned under Liz Truss’s short-lived government – which looks at how the UK can reach its target to stop production of greenhouse gases by 2050
In what some green campaigners say is a backward step, it was announced this week that one of the UK’s last coal-burning power plants would be kept open for an extra two years, as Britain struggles to meet energy supply demands.
CPRE, the countryside charity, said the review showed the need for a ‘massive uplift in renewables’.
Sarah McMonagle, the acting director at the charity, said: ‘Solar energy could be transformative, if only our politicians would grasp the opportunity.
‘With a few simple planning policy tweaks the installation of solar panels could enhance the value of homes, farms and factories in every pocket of the country.
‘Solar panels are like a money-saving carbon reduction device that plugs on top of existing structures.’
Tanya Steele, chief executive of WWF, said that the review ‘shows the grass is greener with net zero’.
She added: ‘It’s concerning that the UK Government has been stop-start in its policies and implementation plans for net zero across renewable energy, food and farming and economic security – at a time we’ve never needed it more.’
As part of the review, Whitehall is being urged to up solar energy five-fold over the next 12 years, from the current 14GW. It could mean an extra 580sq miles of panels – larger that the size of Berkshire.
The report calls for the UK to increase its solar power generation five-fold by 2035, and recommends that the Government offers cheap loans for households to install solar panels (file image)
To tackle this huge demand, the report goes on to call for a ‘rooftop revolution’ and slash the bureaucratic red tape surrounding the installation of panels on homes and commercial buildings.
Former science minister Mr Skidmore added: ‘We need the full-scale deployment of solar, including through a “rooftop revolution” that removes the existing constraints and barriers to solar panel deployment across residential and commercial buildings in the UK,’
Other recommendations called for included that all homes must have an energy performance rating of C by 2033 – potentially affecting two-thirds of properties currently failing to meet this benchmark.
However, certain properties – such as listed buildings – would be exempt from this.
The review also proposes a new requirement for councils to take account of net zero targets when making planning decisions and allow them to impose tougher requirements in some areas.
But there are still major questions about how some of these new solutions such as ground source heat pumps, can work for the millions of small homes and flats in Britain’s cities because they need a hole between 50ft and 300ft deep – or long trenches measuring around 7,000sqft in the garden or grounds.
Charlie Mullins, founder of Pimlico Plumbers, said of the boiler scrappage target recently: ‘We need targets that relate to the real world, targets that when you look at the technology and infrastructure available are realistic. That’s what will get the UK greener, and if we keep up paying lip service to pie in the sky stuff it will take longer because nobody will engage with the issue.
Former PM Boris Johnson had wanted to push Britain towards new sources of energy for homes, including hydrogen, left, and ground source heat pumps, right
‘Heat pumps cannot currently produce the energy to heat water sufficiently, and there is even the suggestion that they may increase the risks from Legionnaires Disease, and as far as hydrogen boilers are concerned, they are only in the prototype stage, so you can’t just go out and get one.
‘And even if you could there’s the small problem of the lack of a hydrogen pipeline so that the green gas would be available to households and businesses.
‘And finally the massive effort it would take to get the UK’s 30 odd million dwellings swapped out from old gas to green energy on the government’s timetable would keep the country’s current crop of heating engineers busy for a hundred years.’
Mr Skidmore also backed calls for communities to see more direct benefits from renewable energy projects in their areas and said funding for local net zero measures should be simpler and require less competitive bidding.
Lord Stern, who published an influential review of the economics of climate change in 2006, welcomed Mr Skidmore’s review.
He said: ‘This transition, and the investment and innovation it embodies, are at the core of the UK’s growth story for the coming decade.’
The report also calls for greater development of onshore wind, and more investment in nuclear power.
It says: ‘Investment in new nuclear is a no-regrets option given expected increase in power demand and retirement of existing plants.’
Gas boiler replacements could cost homes thousands of pounds – here are all the alternatives
GROUND SOURCE HEAT PUMPS (£14,000 – £19,000)
Ground source heat pumps 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, and running costs will depend on the size of the home
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 extract renewable heat from the environment, meaning the heat output is greater than the electricity input
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)
This graphic from the Government’s Hy4Heat innovation programme shows how hydrogen homes would be powered
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 (left) generate renewable electricity by converting energy from the sun into electricity. Solar water heating systems (right), or solar thermal systems, use heat from the sun to warm domestic hot water
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)
Biomass heating systems can burn wood pellets, chips or logs to heat a single room or power central heating and boilers
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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