Gas boiler ban needed to help tackle climate change challenge

Gas-fired appliances should be banned from new build homes within the next six years according to a new report by the Committee on Climate Change, the independent advisor to Government.

The report, UK housing: fit for the future? calls for all new homes to be future-proofed for low carbon heating to avoid expensive retrofits later down the line, and that from 2025 at the latest no new homes should be connected to the gas grid.

The Climate Change Act requires near-zero greenhouse gas emissions from homes by 2050, but efforts to reduce emissions have stalled. The CCC warns that the UK’s legally-binding climate change targets will not be met without the near-complete elimination of greenhouse gas emissions from UK buildings.

The report says new homes should be built to tight specifications that require low-carbon heating, ultra high energy efficiency, and proper ventilation. It concludes that the housing sector is not doing enough to reduce emissions and that UK homes are not fit for a future subject to higher average temperatures, flooding and water scarcity. It outlines steps that can be taken to transition from fossil fuels to renewables, including a national training programme to deliver the building and construction skills required to meet the new challenges.

Industry reaction to the report has been strong, with former Government Minister Mike Foster, now with the Energy and Utilities Alliance (EUA), accusing the CCC of cronyism. He says:

“We absolutely have to reduce our carbon emissions, but we need to take people with us on that journey. Banning gas boilers is a stupid thing to do. It seems the Committee listen to their friends from the heat pump industry and plug their appliances instead. Ironically, that means using electricity generated in gas-fired power stations. I have to question why the Committee are so keen on fitting heat pumps when so many other, more economically viable options exist.”

IGEM, the professional engineering institution for the global gas industry, has responded with similar dissatisfaction with the reports conclusions. Ian McCluskey, IGEM’s Head of Technical Services and Policy, says:

“We do not agree with the recommendation that no new houses built after 2025 should be connected to the gas grid and we would urge the government not to rule out any options lest it impact on the long-term feasibility of a no-regrets solution to the decarbonisation of heat.”

The Heat Pump Association has welcomed the report, with HPA Chairman Graham Wright saying: “Although a major short term shift to solely heat pumps would be impractical, extension of the gas grid in rural areas severely risks creating a much bigger negative legacy for the future. What cannot be denied is the ability of heat pump systems of all genres to significantly reduce carbon emissions, even at quite modest system efficiencies, compared to combustion based heating.”

The Solar Trade Association has also welcomed the CCC’s report, but notes the exclusion of solar technologies as an alternative.

STA Chief Executive Chris Hewett says: “We couldn’t agree more with the CCC’s conclusion that Britain’s housing stock is currently unfit to meet the challenge of climate change. However, it is important that the huge role of solar technologies in meeting this challenge is duly recognised, given the weight of evidence and applied experience. Both solar PV and solar thermal are a natural fit with the decarbonisation of our building stock. They are affordable, popular, proven and easy to maintain. They can also support the performance of other energy-saving technologies as well as the development of the smart grid.”

Baroness Brown, Chair of the CCC’s Adaptation Committee, comments: “This report confirms what we have long-suspected: UK homes are largely unprepared for climate change. The Government now has an opportunity to act. There must be compliance with stated building designs and standards. We need housing with low-carbon sources of heating. And we must finally grasp the challenge of improving our poor levels of home energy efficiency.

“As the climate continues to change, our homes are becoming increasingly uncomfortable and unsafe. This will continue unless we take steps now to adapt them for higher temperatures, flooding and water scarcity. Our report shows that this work has barely begun. The nationwide shift we need to make UK homes climate-ready must start today.”

Lord Deben, Chairman of the Committee on Climate Change, says: “Simply put, there is no way in which the UK can meet the legally-binding climate change targets that Parliament has determined unless we take the measures outlined in this report.”

To read the CCC’s report, click here.

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