Government disagreements delay heating strategy

The strategy, originally expected to be released next week, will set out how Britain will decarbonise central heating systems in homes and offices which, combined, make up a third of emissions in the UK.

One of the biggest contributions to UK emissions is from boilers and heating in buildings, and ministers signalled they wanted to agree a cut-off date of 2035, after which the installation of conventional gas boilers would be banned.

Sky News has reported that the sticking point with Whitehall negotiations revolves around how best to incentivise the public to change to low-carbon alternatives, such as heat pumps and hydrogen boilers. Discussions are struggling over the nature of these incentives and how much the Treasury will have to pay to subsidise them.

Currently, heat pump technology starts at £6,000 and can rise to £18,000, while pumping hydrogen through existing networks is not currently possible. Ministers are concerned about the prospect of a Tory backlash over the costs for middle earners and have stressed that they will not fine people for using, or force people to remove, existing gas boilers. Instead, an incentive will be provided for people to switch to low-carbon alternatives when it comes time to replace fossil fuel boilers in its natural lifecycle. Ministers also believe market competition will reduce the cost of replacing boilers, but this is not yet a certainty.

The delay, reportedly caused by a Whitehall standoff over the cost of plans, is expected to push the release of the strategy to September at the earliest. This leaves little time for a single net zero strategy to be composed, as a resolution must be found before the UK hosts the UN climate change conference at the end of October this year.

The cost of climate change measures also cast a grey cloud over the G7 summit in Cornwall, which took place in June this year, leaving a gloomy global outlook for the COP26 climate change talks.

It remains to be confirmed when the much-needed strategy will be released, but when it is, we look forward to clarity on the opportunities created for installers.