Future rural heating policy kept secret until after local elections 

The future of heating homes in rural areas has been shrouded in secrecy until after the local elections, according to Energy and Utilities Alliance (EUA) CEO Mike Foster, who has raised concerns over the delay in the Government’s response to a consultation that closed over 15 months ago. 

A burden very few people can afford

In the consultation, the Government planned to ban the replacement of fossil fuel boilers, oil and LPG from 2026, accepting that consumers would face considerably higher costs paying for the Government’s preferred replacement, a heat pump. 

According to the government, the average cost of heat pump installation is £13,000 compared to a replacement oil boiler for under £3000. In addition, the annual running cost of a heat pump is £495 or 70 per cent more than an oil boiler. Because of these damning statistics and the political fallout that would follow from the government confirming their policy, the EUA claims a decision has been made to delay the publication of their final plans until after the May local elections. 

A burden very few people can afford  

Mike Foster commented on the decision to keep the finalised policy secret until then: “Forcing people to switch from an oil boiler to a heat pump will involve a huge financial outlay for the consumer. Finding £13,000 when if the boiler breaks down is a burden very few can afford. Paying an extra 70 per cent a year for your heat and hot water is simply unaffordable. The government recognise this, so they are keeping their final plans secret until after the local elections.” 

“Just before Easter, the Government published huge swathes of documents about the future of energy; they could have published their off-gas grid policy then. Choosing not to do so was a very political decision. Hiding the truth from the rural voters who are going to the polls this May means the next time these local elections are fought, it will be 2027, too late to protest, and the policy will be in place. It’s a clever wheeze to avoid being held accountable.” 

Sleepwalking into a trap

“For the opposition, they too are sleepwalking into an electoral trap. If they do win the next general election, they will face voter backlash from a policy agreed by the current Government. It will be no comfort for the hard-pressed consumer to be told that it is all the fault of the previous government. When you can’t afford a new heating system, can’t afford to turn it on and are banned by law from buying a cheaper replacement boiler, then that political problem will fall to whoever forms the next government.”