A trade body representing utilities firms has accused energy minister Lord Callanan of “chaos” in going against his own department’s policy over heat pumps replacing traditional gas boilers.
“Nobody’s going to be forced to ditch their boiler “ the minister of state at D-ESNZ assured readers of the Sunday Telegraph yesterday. Forcing “households to replace gas boilers with heat pumps would be against the British character”, Callanan wrote.
The minister is pictured at left above, inspecting new heat pumps at Octopus’s factory in Northern Ireland, purchased last year.
This morning Mike Foster, chief executive of the Energy & Utilities Alliance has written to the minister on behalf of member firms in eight related trade sectors, asking for clarification, adding that current British government policy is in effect, just that.
While agreeing with the minister’s statements, the boss points out that it is current Government policy for fossil fuel boilers to be replaced by heat pumps. He has now demanded urgent clarification of what current policy is.
Mr Foster said: “Lord Callanan’s words are welcome. We agree with them. Nobody should be forced to ditch their boiler and to force a heat pump onto households does go against the British character. But the Minister’s own department are pursuing a policy that directly contradicts what the Minister has said.”
“The Heat and Building Strategy clearly states that from 2026 homes off the gas grid will not be allowed to install a new oil or LPG boiler. This forces households to ditch their boiler. Yet now the Minister says he is against his own policy.”
“Officials in the Minister’s department have described off gas grid homes as ‘low hanging fruit’, easy to pick off and have a heat pump installed to replace a boiler” Foster notes “For those currently using a gas boiler, the Heat and Buildings Strategy identified 2035 as the date after which a gas boiler could not be installed.
“Has this deadline now been scrapped, too? It’s chaos”, Foster writes. “Whether you make boilers, heat pumps or both, confusion is the very last thing needed.”
As recently as Wednesday, the House of Lords select on committee energy criticised Callanan’s ministry for slow progress in delivering on its £450 million policy of replacing boilers with lower-carbon heat pumps.
Low public awareness and a lack of trained technicians leave uptake of D-ESNZ’s Boiler Upgrade Scheme dawdling at less than half its intended rate since launch in May,
Their Lordships called on Callanan and colleagues for urgent improvement, including carrying almost £80 million of unspent cash from its first year of budget into the second.
The scheme offers £5,000 to qualifying homes seeking to upgrade from gas boilers to electric heat pumps. The Johnson administration expected it to notch up 20,000 home instals for each of its three years.
“We need to clarify the situation urgently”, the EUA boss writes today. “Consumers need to know what the future holds for them, as does industry. One minute gas boilers are being banned, the next it is against the British character to do this”.
In his blog today, the EUA boss lays into influential advocates for heat pumps who put personal considerations ahead of their own adoption of that heat technology.
Ground source heat pumps are more than 4 times more efficient in converting electric power into heat than the best gas condensing boilers that only achieve no better than about 90% efficiency in converting the gas energy to heat, if they are in condensing mode which they are often not. Then the production of hydrogen from electricity is only around 65% efficient at best, making the total conversion of electricity to hydrogen to heat no better than 60% efficient.
Fitting houses with a heat pump rather than a gas boiler is a no-brainer if you do the maths, but the Government is under severe mis-guided pressure from the gas suppliers and boiler manufacturers to keep gas boilers, which in any case don’t last more than about 20 years. It is time that the Government mandates that all new heating must be done with a heat pump, but that should not mean that existing gas boilers will have to be replaced before they reach the end of their lives.
British boiler manufacturers should read the writing on the wall and start to manufacture heat pumps, like the German manufacturers Vaillant and Viessmann already do.