Replacing Gas Boilers

Thank you for contacting me about possible green alternatives to gas boilers. 

There are currently around 1.7 million fossil fuel boiler installations every year,
but by the mid-2030s I am pleased that the Government expects all newly installed heating systems to be low-carbon or to be appliances that can be converted to a clean fuel supply. 

A significant proportion of household heating is achieved from burning natural gas, which unfortunately accounts for a large proportion of household carbon emissions. I understand many people would like in due course to switch to a greener heating system, but would like more information about the costs and practicalities of this.

There are several alternatives to gas boilers already in existence, including heat pumps. A heat pump is a very efficient electrically-driven device that extracts heat from the air, ground or water and concentrates it to a higher temperature and delivers it elsewhere, for example to a central heating system, therefore it has the potential to replace fossil fuel heating, such as a gas or oil boilers. In the Ten Point Plan, the Government announced that it will increase the installation of electric heat pumps from 30,000 per year to 600,000 per year by 2028, supporting up to 20,000 jobs by 2030.

Another possible green alternative is a hydrogen boiler. The Government is working with industry to examine the potential role of hydrogen in heating homes and workplaces. It would work in a similar way to gas boilers today but without any carbon emissions. The UK is already a world leader in hydrogen and the Government is investing £500 million in new hydrogen technologies. Prior to consulting on the role of ‘hydrogen ready’ appliances, the Government will assess the case for encouraging, or requiring, new gas boilers to be readily convertible to hydrogen, so-called ‘hydrogen-ready’ boilers, in preparation for any future conversion of the gas network.

Work is already underway to support the development of prototype ‘hydrogen-ready’ boilers, cookers and fires, through the Hy4Heat programme, which is due to conclude in summer 2021.

I am pleased that the Government has announced that the UK’s first homes with appliances fuelled entirely by hydrogen will be built in Gateshead, with funding from the Hy4Heat programme, Northern Gas Networks and Cadent. The houses, which will be ready with appliances shortly, will be fitted with hydrogen powered boilers, hobs, cookers and fires that release no carbon emissions, thereby providing the public a glimpse into the potential home of the future.  

In addition, the recently-published Hydrogen Strategy confirmed that, dependent on the success of the heating trials and the information gathered, the Government aims to make a strategic decision on the future of hydrogen for heat in 2026. 

More broadly, while the UK continues to work towards net zero carbon emissions by 2050, thereby eliminating the UK’s contribution to climate change, I am encouraged that renewables will continue to play a far greater role in the UK’s energy mix.

The Government has been clear that it wants to give households, suppliers, installers and equipment manufacturers plenty of time to prepare for this transition. As such, the Government will target the point of least disruption to consumers and minimise the impact on the housing market and will therefore look to use natural trigger points, such as the replacement cycle for existing heating systems. It is important to ensure consumers are receiving fair value as they switch to clean heat, which means the Government must work with the market to reduce costs and addressing barriers to the deployment of new technologies.

I do think it is important to look at making new build and existing homes as energy efficient as possible. I welcome that the Government has a target of making all rented non-domestic buildings EPC Band B by 2030, where cost-effective, and supporting as many existing homes as possible to reach EPC Band C by 2035. 

Finally, the introduction of the Future Homes Standard will ensure that from 2025, an average home will produce at least 75 per cent lower CO2 emissions than one built to current energy efficiency requirements. Homes built under the Future Homes Standard will be ‘zero carbon ready’, which means that in the longer term, these homes will be future-proofed with low carbon heating and world-leading levels of energy efficiency. No further retrofit work will be necessary to enable them to become zero carbon homes as the electricity grid continues to decarbonise. The Government will publish a Heat and Buildings Strategy in due course which will take a holistic approach to energy use in buildings and consider product and thermal efficiency as well as heat decarbonisation.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.