Downing Street is mulling a £400 million boiler scrappage scheme that would offer homeowners up to £7,000 to ditch their gas boilers.
The scheme would be an expansion of the £100 million Clean Heat Grant scheme announced in April of last year and due to launch in April 2022. Under the original proposals, the scheme would offer households grants of up to £4,000 to help fund the installation of low-carbon heating solutions like electric heat pumps.
Now The Times reports that Boris Johnson wants to quadruple the budget of the scheme, increase the maximum grant to £7,000 and run the scheme over three years instead of two. The expanded scheme would support the installation of nearly 60,000 heat pumps—an early step in decarbonising the country’s heavily polluting heating sector.
Currently, home heating systems account for around 14% of the UK’s carbon emissions. For the government to achieve its target of net zero emissions by 2050, we must replace the natural gas boilers that heat the vast majority of the country’s 29 million homes.
However, few households have adopted the low-carbon alternatives such as heat pumps, with many dissuaded by their high cost. With heat pumps costing upwards of £10,000 and electricity more expensive than natural gas, just 35,000 heat pumps are installed each year.
The government wants to boost that figure to 600,000 per year by 2028 but as of yet hasn’t provided a detailed roadmap to that goal.
A souped-up Clean Heat Grant, its latest policy proposal, is expected to be announced as part of the long-delayed Heat and Buildings Strategy. The strategy is now expected after Parliament returns from its summer recess and in advance of the COP26 summit in November.
But the ink isn't dry yet. While Boris Johnson is gung-ho about the plan, the Treasury has doubts, especially after the failure of the Green Homes Grant scheme. A flagship part of the much-touted “green recovery” from the coronavirus crisis, the Green Homes Grant scheme was prematurely scrapped in March, having delivered just a fraction of the energy efficiency upgrades it was supposed to.
A government source told The Times: “The Treasury is not opposed to the principle of the scrappage scheme. It's worried about the design and whether it will be effective. The prime minister is fully behind it though. He sees it as a key announcement in the run up to Cop26.”
But the government’s commitment to decarbonising the UK’s heating systems has been thrown into question by reports that the Heat and Buildings Strategy won’t include a long-rumoured 2035 ban on new gas boiler installations. Instead, it’s been suggested that the government could water the language down to an “ambition” rather than a ban or possibly push the date back to 2040. This is despite some environmental groups urging an even faster phaseout of gas boilers—by 2025, some have suggested.
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