PM plans £5,000 grants to install green heating
Millions of boilers will need to be replaced
Boris Johnson is to offer £5,000 grants to switch British households from gas boilers to low-carbon heating systems over the next 15 years.
His plans are likely to be outlined today, but have already brought him into conflict with the Chancellor and with sceptics in the industry who say the plan faces major obstacles.
The grants are part of the government’s £3.9bn plan to reduce carbon emissions from heating homes and other buildings.
It is hoped no new gas boilers will be sold after 2035. The £450m funding also aims to make social housing and public buildings more energy efficient.
But the funding being made available will allow just 90,000 heat pump installations over three years – far short of the Prime Minister’s initial goal of 600,000 a year by 2028 – and targeted initially at England and Wales.
Tory backbenchers are warning of a backlash from voters over the costs involved of switching away from gas and amid rising tensions between the Prime Minister and Chancellor Rishi Sunak as the Treasury argues there are “diminishing returns” from Downing Street’s green investment strategy.
There are also practical questions about how some of these new solutions such as ground source heat pumps, will work in small homes and flats, with tradesmen saying they will require huge trenches and holes that are not feasible.
Charlie Mullins from Pimlico Plumbers tells the Daily Mail today: “We need targets that relate to the real world, targets that when you look at the technology and infrastructure available are realistic. That’s what will get the UK greener, and if we keep up paying lip service to pie in the sky stuff it will take longer because nobody will engage with the issue.
“Heat pumps cannot currently produce the energy to heat water sufficiently, and there is even the suggestion that they may increase the risks from Legionnaires Disease, and as far as hydrogen boilers are concerned, they are only in the prototype stage, so you can’t just go out and get one.”
Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng defending the strategy, saying: “As the technology improves and costs plummet over the next decade, we expect low-carbon heating systems will become the obvious, affordable choice for consumers.
“Through our new grant scheme, we will ensure people are able to choose a more efficient alternative in the meantime.”
Writing in The Sun, Mr Johnson said: “The Greenshirts of the Boiler Police are not going to kick in your door with their sandal-clad feet and seize, at carrot-point, your trusty old combi”.
Mr Johnson also sought to reassure voters about the government’s ambitions by stressing that the costs of low-carbon heating systems would go down over time while their introduction would help create thousands of new job opportunities.
Ed Miliband, the shadow business secretary, described the strategy as “meagre, unambitious and wholly inadequate”, adding that Labour had pledged to spend £6bn a year on insulation and low carbon heating.
Heat pumps are powered by electricity and Octopus Energy said it expected homeowners would initially contribute around £2,500 to the cost of installing one, roughly equivalent to the cost of a new gas boiler. The government subsidy would cover the rest of the cost.