Challenging Harry Potter

Challenging Harry Potter

Challenging Harry Potter

The report of the seventh session of the 2021-22 House of Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee won’t be challenging Harry Potter for book sales anytime soon – but it does outline ways to make carbon disappear that the boy wizard himself would be proud of.

Known by the slightly snappier title of “Decarbonising Heat in Homes” the select committee report outlines the way forward if UK homes are to transition from gas and other fossil fuel heating systems to carbon-free heating.

The scale of the task is enormous. Latest figures suggest there are approximately 25m UK homes connected to the gas grid, using a boiler and wet-based central heating system. The remaining 4m homes use either oil or liquid petroleum gas (LPG) as their main heating fuel or electric heating.

If the UK is to meet its net zero carbon target by 2050, heating in homes will need to switch to one of three low carbon technologies: heat pumps, hydrogen and/or heat networks – with heat pumps expected to make up over half of these new systems.

The BEIS report concludes that whilst the volatility of the gas market is exposing families to ever higher heating bills, more needs to be done to explain to the public why, how, and when their heating systems will be required to change and the potential costs and benefits this transition may bring.

The Boiler Upgrade Scheme set to open in Spring 2022 offers grants to consumers to install heat pumps, and in some cases, biomass boilers. For a ground source heat pump, financial support of £6,000 will be offered with the scheme’s £450 million funding expected to help install 90,000 heat pumps over three years.

However, as the report makes clear, although green heating is far cheaper, the initial transition will still leave many households having to find upwards of £10,000 to replace their current gas boiler or other carbon-energy based heating systems.

It’s not clear how low-income families can be expected to afford this or how Government will convince the public to do this when their current heating system may be working perfectly well.

So, the select committee that produced the report have sounded out industry and other interested parties and come up with some workable solutions.

Firstly, it suggests a fundamental re-think is needed of the proposed grants to better support lower income households and those homes which will require the most expensive and/or complicated installations to decarbonise.

Also, incentivising banks to create low-interest loan products for consumers enabling them to make the switch and repay over a timescale they can afford.

Finally, the report calls for the boiler upgrade scheme to last a decade rather than two or three years and for a partnership between Government, industry, and unions to create and promote career and training pathways. This will provide a green jobs dividend for the UK and ensure there are enough qualified installers to meet demand and keep prices affordable.

So, the roadmap to decarbonising heat in homes is clear and achievable, provided the Government acts – it won’t just happen by magic.

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