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.
The Hy4Heat programme has also supported the development of prototype 'hydrogen-ready' boilers, cookers and fires. As a result, two 'hydrogen homes' have opened to the public in Gateshead to give people an opportunity to experience a zero-emission gas-fuelled home of the future. In addition, there is the opportunity to interact with green technologies inside the showrooms and demonstrate to customers that they can have a choice about how they heat their homes sustainably in 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.
I have spoken with colleagues at HM Treasury about the suggestions raised for the Spending Review taking place this year. I am regrettably not in a position to pre-empt the conclusions of the review. I am, however, assured by my aforementioned colleagues that they are aware of the policy suggestions raised.
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.