The UK government and energy experts in London and accross the country are not in agreement regarding the government's decision to replace gas boilers with heat pumps.
The government decided to replace gas boilers with heat pumps to reduce carbon emissions. Unlike gas boilers, heat pumps will help reduce the UK’s dependence on fossil fuels as they extract warmth from the water, ground, or the air. Moreover, they are electricity-powered and can provide sustainable heating on low-carbon electricity sources.
As per the sources, gas boilers are in use in around 25 million UK households, which is undoubtedly a large number. Therefore, the government outlined a plan to offer subsidies of 5,000 from April 2022 to make UK homes shift to heat pumps. The cost of pumps will be covered as part of the government's £3.9 billion plan meant to control carbon emissions that occur by heating household buildings.
The Chief Policy Director at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Matthew Fell, said the grants would help a great deal in decarbonising houses across the UK and help speed up the net zero target of the government. “There's no doubt that the scale of the challenge is considerable. These welcome measures – including the 2035 phase out of new gas boilers – will help consumers and businesses better prepare to change the way they heat their homes and buildings,” he further added.
However, the government's decision is being severely criticized by experts. Experts have a completely different opinion in regards to shifting to heat pumps. While the government believes that it will help make more and more people prefer heat pumps over gas boilers by boosting demand for the pumps, critics believe that the plan will not be successful.
According to critics, the grants will cover only 90,000 pumps within a period of 3 years, whereas the need is for millions of pumps as up to 25 million households in the UK have gas boilers. As a result, 90,000 seems to be a negligible contribution given the number of gas boilers in use.
It is estimated that an amount of 450m would be spent in the next three years in order to turn to heat pumps. Nonetheless, experts found this amount insufficient upon calculating the cost of installing a heat pump per household.
It's pretty expensive to install a heat pump, and it costs somewhere between 6,000 and 18,000, considering the size of a house and the type to be installed. In contrast, the government decided to offer a subsidy of 5,000 to each household.
Although ministers' take is that the subsidies will bring down the cost of heat pumps to gas boilers, experts find the subsidy to be insufficient.
Experts also brought to light that special home arrangements are required before installing a heat pump, which will add up to the cost.
Home insulation and other home improvements that a heat pump requires will be challenging in terms of money to homeowners.
It is further added by Dr. David Glew, energy efficiency head at Leeds Beckett University, that "gas is relatively cheap to heat your home with." Although Dr. Glew is nowhere denying the fact of hike in gas prices, he feels that gas is still less costly than heat.
He also said,“Needing to insulate your house might cost you tens of thousands of pounds and you are only going to be saving several hundreds of pounds, so the economics of that doesn't really add up."
The same is claimed by one of the energy firms named Octopus Energy. According to the firm, although the cost of heat pumps would be brought down to that of gas boilers with the assistance of government grants, many homes will need to upgrade their energy efficiency, including home insulation, prior to installing a heat pump.
Given what different critics are saying, the government claimed not to ban gas boilers in an outright manner, although the plan is to stop the sale of any new gas boilers after 2035.
Mike Childs, Head of Science at Friends of the Earth, also rejected the government's plan as ineffective, keeping in mind the UK's goal of becoming a zero-carbon-emitting nation in the world. He said that the grants are insufficient to cover the number of heat pumps required, and by doing that, it seems impossible for the UK to reach its climate commitments.
In regards to grants, Caroline Jones, Greenpeace UK's climate campaigner, is of the opinion that the government should have offered more money to speed up the shift to heat pumps.
The Resolution Founder's senior economist, Jonny Marshall, claims that the government will struggle to give shape to its plan of reducing carbon emissions from houses.
Nonetheless, the government’s determination to reduce carbon emissions is promising. There are many parties in work that are providing relevant advice to the government in this regard. Recently, it has been proposed by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) to discontinue all gas-run power stations that emit carbon by the year 2035. There is also a dire need to switch to electric vehicles, and cut down carbon emissions from jets, says CCC.
At present, the UK's overall greenhouse gas emissions account for one-fifth of the total emissions by the use of gas boilers for heating buildings. As per CCC, housing adds up to about 14% of the UK's net greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, the government's Heat and Building Strategy department is under serious pressure to cut down greenhouse emissions.
The pump grants would be funded through several directories, including the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund, the Boiler Upgrade Scheme, the Home Upgrade Grant, and the Heat Networks Transformation Programme, among others.
Homeowners who are clueless about applying for the heat pump grant should note that the government has yet to disclose the exact details regarding the same. The plan is still under construction, and the details will be made available to England and Wales households in April 2022.