BEIS committee concludes that last year’s Heat and Buildings Strategy has failed to give sufficient clarity and financial detail on how to provide homes with more efficient, lower carbon heat systems
Parliament’s Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee has said government aims to decarbonise domestic heating are being undermined by a lack of clear strategic direction. This lack of direction remains even with the publication of the long-awaited Heat and Buildings Strategy in 2021, according to the committee.
The conclusions form part of the cross-party watchdog’s ‘Decarbonising Heat in Homes’ report that calls on the government to introduce stronger commitments to deliver on its aims of ensuring all UK homes switch to lower carbon heating technologies over the next two decades. These aims include scaling up the current UK heat pump market to ensure 600,000 systems can be installed annually from 2028, as well as allowing for widescale improvements in the energy efficiency of existing homes.
UK heat strategy
The committee warned that the delayed publication of the government’s Heat and Buildings Strategy last year failed to set out exactly how these targets will be met and what contingencies there were in cases where targets are set to be missed.
It also called for a national campaign to build public awareness about the changes required in homes to introduce lower carbon heat, the likely costs of this transition and the benefits of replacing existing systems such as natural gas boilers.
Labour MP Darren Jones, Chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, argued that not enough progress was being made in the UK to end a national reliance on natural gas boilers.
He said, “As it stands, we will miss our net zero target. The government must act urgently to help speed up delivery and support bill payers and workers who will be affected by the change.”
“Bill payers today are deeply worried about their energy costs, with many people struggling to afford to heat their homes. Most people don’t realise that their gas boiler will need to be replaced within the next 10 to 15 years.”
Mr Jones also urged the government and energy companies to clearly explain to bill payers about both the environmental and longer-term cost benefits from ensuring a widescale focus on home insulation and ending gas heating.
The findings have been released the same day that market regulator Ofgem announced the introduction of a 54 per cent rise in the UK’s energy price cap from April 2022. On average, an estimated 22 million customers in the UK are expected to pay an additional £693 per year for gas to fuel and heat homes as a result of a surge in global prices.
Mr Jones said that amidst concerns about the impact of gas prices on the cost of heating homes, it was vital for the government to set out what financial help would be introduced for homeowners. He specifically called for a direct replacement of the Green Homes Grant that was introduced to incentivise low carbon heat improvements. The grant was abruptly terminated after less than a year.
Mr Jones added, “Action is needed to improve insulation and energy efficiency in our homes and to step up the pace in delivering low carbon heating systems, at a lower cost to households than today. Ministers can’t simply leave this to the market – government should tackle the cost of heating our homes in the round and bring forward joined-up policies that address these issues together.”
Another consideration of the committee’s findings was ensuring a sufficient number of trained engineers were available to effectively installed low carbon heating systems across the UK.
Mr Jones said, “The government should work with industry and trade unions to support a low carbon heating apprenticeship programme and ensure existing workers get access to re-skilling courses that will support their transition to the new green jobs of the future.”
Alongside criticism of the existing scope of the government’s low carbon heat support, the report did praise the announcement of a Boiler Upgrade Scheme in its heat strategy.
The committee welcomed the strategy’s recommendations to provide public funds to support lower income households with more efficient heat and work closely with trade unions and industry partners on delivering improvements.
Another “missed opportunity” identified by the committee within the Heat and Buildings Strategy was a lack of comprehensive plans for a national programme to insulate existing homes and buildings to reduce heat demand.
The report stated, “Despite the strategy taking a ‘fabric first’ approach with energy saving improvements, there is no detailed plan for what these specific retrofit measures would be or how they would be rolled out to existing homes.”
Trade bodies such as the Ground Source Heat Pump Association have welcomed the findings of the BEIS Select Committee’s report on Heat Decarbonisation and called for fresh policies to incentivise a move to lower carbon systems.
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