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With news that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is looking to backtrack on the UK’s Net Zero targets, keeping but postponing the “Boiler Ban”, the industry responds with mixed reactions.
The Chartered Institute of Building
Eddie Tuttle, Director of Policy, Research and Public Affairs at The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB), which has long campaigned for a long term national retrofit strategy said: “Decarbonising homes and the wider built environment is vital to reach net zero so it’s disappointing to hear the Prime Minister scaling back energy efficiency targets and the commitments made in the Government’s own net zero growth plan published only six months ago, which refers to minimising reliance on fossil fuels.
“Energy consumption in buildings accounts for almost half of the UK’s carbon emissions so to deprioritise this issue is baffling when the government should instead be finding ways to support homeowners to retrofit their properties and improve their energy efficiency for the lowest possible cost.
“The Boiler Upgrade Scheme has had very low take up and in our view, increasing the grant available to homeowners will make little difference, as the remaining 25% will still be unaffordable for many households amidst a cost of living crisis.
“If government remains committed to reaching net zero by 2050, as they say they are, then they must set out how they plan to achieve this without reducing the reliance on carbon-based fuels to heat homes on the scale and at the pace required.”
Tyrone Ekrem, Founder of Fair Fix, the boiler engineer experts, commented: “Although the government’s intentions to reduce our environmental impact are commendable, it’s rather presumptuous to implement a ban on gas boilers on behalf of the entire nation and, as our research shows, the vast majority are against such an idea.
However, it’s important to note that if such a ban did come to fruition, it would only apply to new-build homes built from there on out. This means that for existing homeowners, there is no obligation to have your boiler replaced if you don’t wish to.
With previous government initiatives, such as smart metres, coming under heavy fire for actually costing people money, you can understand why the nation is hesitant about a move away from the tried and tested methods of powering their homes.
What’s more, the cost of installing an alternative heating system is substantial and it is one that simply can’t be stomached by many in these tough economic times.”
Ground Source Heat Pump Association
On the other side of things, Ken Gordon, CEO of the Ground Source Heat Pump Association (GSHPA) expressed concerns regarding the delay to the phasing-out of fossil fuel boilers. “This decision poses significant challenges to the UK’s 2050 climate targets and the growing but fragile heat pump industry”. The GSPHA continued with the following reasons:
“More To Do, Less Time: Postponing the phase-out effectively shortens the window to retrofit and replace millions of heating systems. A delay now will only compress the timeline later, making the challenge exponentially greater. Rapid transformation will be required closer to 2050, putting undue strain on industry resources, supply chains, and skilled labour. Achieving the 2050 targets becomes riskier and potentially more expensive for both homeowners and the government. This does not safeguard ordinary families; it means they will have to expect even more disruption in the future. Government should provide the funding required for transition, not families.
Setbacks to the Heat Pump Industry: The ground source heat pump sector, along with other heat pump industries, has been steadily growing in response to previous government guidelines and commitments. The industry has heavily invested in research, development, and workforce training to meet anticipated demands. A delay in policy would destabilise this growth, causing uncertainty and potentially lead to job losses, and reinforce consumers’ reluctance to join an industry that is volatile to such sudden policy changes. This affects many families who are now even more confused about the way to do something about climate change.
Impact on Housing Developers: The recent decision will undoubtedly lead housing developers to reconsider or cancel existing contracts for eco-friendly heating solutions, in favour of traditional fossil fuel boilers. Not only does this put existing contracts and investments at risk, but it also contradicts the broader vision of a sustainable, low-carbon future for the UK’s housing sector.
Damaging Signal to Stakeholders: A delay would signal a grave lack of commitment to addressing the most urgent crisis facing the world today and would break faith with all concerned stakeholders including younger voters. We, at the GSHPA, understand the complex considerations involved in such policy decisions. However, it is crucial to acknowledge that short-term leniencies might lead to long-term consequences that could be both environmentally and economically costly. We urge the government to reassess the implications of the delay and to continue its support for the renewable energy sector. The GSHPA remains committed to assisting the government in achieving its 2050 climate goals and ensuring a sustainable future for all.”
Griff Thomas, from leading renewables training provider, GTEC, similarly urged the Prime Minister to “hold his nerve when it comes to Net Zero.”, commenting: “I am saddened to hear that the Prime Minister is considering watering down the UK’s road to Net Zero, a road that is paved with a greener future and a buoyant economy. I implore Rishi Sunak, who also happens to be my local MP – a visitor to GTEC’s Hawes HQ – to stick with the plan, rather than risk the livelihoods of the many businesses that have now invested millions in supporting our low carbon ambitions. Dithering will upset investors, knock confidence and feed into the hands of the conspiratorial climate change deniers.
“You may think that this is what voters want, but I, and many of your MPs, don’t believe that is true. As our Prime Minister, you should be supporting plans that give us what we need – an end to fossil fuels that not only leads to a reduced carbon footprint, but also assists with energy security, and further reduces our reliance on unstable oil and gas rich nations which do not share our values. We have an opportunity to power ourselves, with policies that lead the world forward when it comes to countering climate change.
“Your own party has expressed a deep unease at the move. Who are you trying to please? The gas and boiler companies, the petrol and diesel car manufacturers? They have had plenty of time to diversify and under current plans, there will still be many years of these products. We are already far behind many European countries when it comes to alternative heat sources such as heat pumps, why put us back even further?
“We are struggling through a period of rising prices and economic uncertainty, back-tracking on Net Zero will only exacerbate the struggle. Ultimately, your voters will pay the price for this, surely this is not what’s best for Britain or the Conservative Party’s popularity?”
The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health
The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) responded more generally to changes to Net-Zero targets and are co-signatory to a Joint-Letter signed by a range of thought-leaders from across business and civil society. The letter urges the Prime Minister not to backslide on Net Zero commitments, highlighting the impact this will have on our economy, and the perception of the UK as a global leader in the fight against climate change.
CIEH CEO, Dr Phil James, stated: “We were happy to sign the Joint-Letter which highlights the fiscal risks associated with delays in action on net zero. The Office for Budget Responsibility has pointed out the economic benefits of rapid action. Watering down policies will not only elevate the cost of living but will also expose households to volatile fossil fuel markets for a more extended period. Last winter, £40 billion was spent subsidising household energy bills to prevent untold hardship. While such expenditure was necessary, it exposed the need to accelerate, not backslide on plans to decarbonise our economy.
The Prime Minister’s speech, though filled with eloquent rhetoric, makes a series of alarming concessions that threaten the very core of our environmental and public health commitments. The urgency of the climate crisis is not a matter for negotiation. Any weakening of resolve not only undermines the UK’s global leadership but also puts at risk the health and well-being of the public. We need transformative action, not incremental changes.”
Louise Hosking, Executive Director of Environmental Health at CIEH, Louise Hosking, added: “The government’s newly outlined strategy is a dangerous retreat from the level of urgency that the climate crisis demands. Public debate is crucial, but it should not serve as a smokescreen for diluting hard-fought and necessary commitments. We are particularly concerned about the potential long-term impact on the environment and public health, as well as the erosion of the UK’s international standing as a climate leader.
Once more, we urge the government to look beyond a simplistic ‘health vs wealth’ dichotomy and embrace a more holistic approach that recognises that a healthy environment and population is not only an ethical imperative but a cornerstone for more sustainable ways of doing business within a thriving economy. A thriving environment is the bedrock for public health. Clean air, for instance, lessens the burden of respiratory illnesses, while sustainable food systems contribute to better nutrition. Better public health means a more productive workforce and less strain on healthcare systems. Therefore, a commitment to Net Zero is a commitment to safer, cleaner, healthier environments for all.
To backtrack on this commitment is to jeopardise not just our environment, but our public health and economic future.”
Trevor Harvey, CEO of Stelrad, one of the leading players in the European radiator market, has called on the Government to take a more “joined up” approach to addressing net zero and incentivising home owners to take measures to reduce climate emissions from their homes. Please see a quote below.
“Decarbonisation, improving energy efficiency and supporting consumers and households are all intertwined with one another and I actually think yesterday’s measures announced by the Government went a large way to acknowledging that.
“By removing legislative deadlines while simultaneously improving the incentive for home owners to install heat pumps or biomass boilers to £7,500, the Government is getting rid of an arbitrary cliff edge alongside helping to make lower carbon systems more financially attractive at a time when families are struggling with the cost of living crisis.
“However, we continue to urge the Government to take a more joined up approach to the wider issue – heating UK homes produces around 17% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions so it is imperative that we have a plan that incentivises homeowners to take as many practical measures as possible, including things such as insulating their homes more effectively and installing more modern and efficient radiators.”
Heating and Hotwater Industry Council
Stewart Clements, Director of the Heating and Hotwater Industry Council (HHIC), commented:
“Following yesterday’s speech made by the Prime Minister, we welcome the time afforded to make a more thought out and successful switch to low carbon heating. This will play a pivotal role in our journey in achieving net zero and decarbonising homes across the country.
“The 50% increase in financial support provided through the enhanced Boiler Upgrade Scheme and Great British Insulation Scheme will undoubtedly incentivise the switch to heat pumps for more homeowners. Such a positive initiative, however, requires a significantly larger number of installers than previously estimated, which the government must work with industry to address.
“Data gathered by the HHIC suggests that to meet the Government’s ambitious heat pump installation target of 600,000, we require 100,000 installers more than the Government’s prediction of 50,000 – a figure almost equivalent to the entire Gas Safe Register. This shows the need for further support in addressing the current skills gap to meet the expected rise in demand for low carbon heating.
“Decarbonising the heating economy is possible, yet it will require a collaborative effort from manufacturers, trade associations and the Government to achieve the long-term goals outlined by the Prime Minister. Incentivising heating engineers to add heat pump installation to their offering will prove invaluable to the Government if they are determined to meet their ambitious 2030 targets related to net zero.”
To download the report and find out more about the research, visit the HHIC Website here.
NIBE Energy Systems
NIBE Energy Systems weighed in on the industry response too:
“We are exasperated by the Prime Minister’s decision to delay the phase out of fossil fuel boilers in off grid homes and strongly disagree with the notion that the technology needed isn’t ready. Heat pumps represent a viable solution that can help us achieve Net Zero -a target that should be a top priority without hesitation or delay.
Additionally, while the increase in funding for the Boiler Upgrade Scheme aligns with our advocacy efforts, it is just one of many necessary steps. For example, ground source heat pumps are a logical solution in off-grid homes using high carbon fossil fuels, yet the scheme covers a lower percentage of their costs compared to other technologies.
Moreover, policy certainty is crucial not only to industry but installers who need confidence in the direction of the market. The decision to backtrack on targets sends all the wrong signals at a time when we need the green light to pave the way for a net zero future.”
Henk van den Berg, Residential Sales Manager at Daikin UK commented: “Heat pumps are now more affordable than ever. By increasing the Boiler Upgrade Scheme support to £7,500, the Government has made renewable heating more accessible. However, the overall funding hasn’t been increased which means that there will be fewer installations overall for the remainder of the BUS scheme.
“Continuing to exclude hybrid heat pump systems – the cheapest and fastest way to decarbonise home heating – from the Scheme is a real misstep.
“Moving back the deadline for banning oil/LPG boilers till 2035 and the full cancellation of the landlord’s efficiency targets will have a severe impact in the mid term. This is only going to make hitting the 2050 net zero target harder and, most likely, more expensive for households. Especially as our PM failed to address the electricity levy once again, still favouring fossil fuels from a tax perspective.
“The Government has clearly given-up on its commitment to see up to 600,000 heap pumps being installed a year by 2028. This is going to undermine confidence, foreign investments and will have a significant impact on the growth in green jobs.”