Conservative Party backbenchers are increasing their calls to delay net zero targets, with the 2026 ban on oil boilers the latest to come under attack.
The Telegraph reported yesterday that former environment secretary George Eustace had tabled an amendment to the Energy Bill, which is currently in its final stages in the Commons before receiving Royal Assent. The move received the support of other Boris Johnson supporting Conservative MPs like John Redwood, with more than 30 Tory MPs having written to the Prime Minister about the issue, according to The Telegraph.
Eustice wrote in an article for the Telegraph that the ban was rural communities’ “own version of ultra low emission zone (ULEZ)”, and should be scrapped in favour of “a different strategy which would be to properly incentivise renewable fuels in those boilers.”
The suggestion closely mirrors the position of gas boiler trade association, the Energy and Utilities Association, which was recently found to have been funding a PR campaign to promote negative heat pump stories and the use of hydrogen for home heating.
Conservative MPs argue that the ban leaves little time for people in rural areas to adapt to the new rules, which would impact rural homes that are not connected to the gas grid and use oil boilers instead. The government is planning to ban oil boilers from 2026, meaning those households will need to switch to heat pumps earlier than others.
Those in favour of scrapping the ban say heat pumps are still too expensive, though some energy companies like Octopus are offering their customers heat pumps for £3,000.
The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ) responded to the Telegraph, saying they would confirm their final plans for phasing out gas boilers in due course.
The news was criticised by campaigners like Jo Alsop, founder of the Heating Hub, who said on Twitter/X that oil boilers should be phased out from 2026 because heat pump prices are falling, heat pumps are more efficient than other fuels, and insulation grants are available for rural homes. Alsop also shared a graphic from Nesta showing how much more efficient heat pumps are than hydrogen.
Great graphic from @nesta_uk piece:— Jo Alsop – The Heating Hub (@theheatinghub) August 5, 2023
150GW of renewable electricity from 6 windfarms to create 70GW of domestic heat from green hydrogen
26GW of renewable electricity from 1 windfarm to create 70GW of heat from heat pumps
Also, green hydrogen, not readyhttps://t.co/VZ8PeKcaUl pic.twitter.com/pbaB2Mmvih
Nigel Pocklington, chief executive of Good Energy said: “About 40% of Good Energy’s heat pump installations are in off-gas grid homes previously heated with oil, greatly over-indexing the 3% average among UK households. Precisely because the drawbacks of oil heating are multiple – the smell, air pollution, volatile fuel costs and large ugly tank you’ve got to make room for in your garden.
“The benefits of heat pumps are clear — comfort, efficiency and smaller physical footprint. And that’s before you look at the carbon savings. Heat pumps are starting to stack up against gas, but against oil they’re already a no-brainer.”
Charlotte Lee from the Heat Pump Association reiterated: “heat pumps will undoubtedly have a role to play in decarbonising home heating as we move towards the UK’s legally binding net zero targets. Ultimately, delays to proposed steps to support decarbonisation will result in a sharper trajectory in the longer term, rather than the gradual approach that was proposed.”
Unfortunately, parts of the Conservative Party and press are choosing to make net zero targets a politically charged topic and as we approach a likely general election in the next year, we are likely to see more of the public debate around measures to reduce the UK’s carbon emissions becoming politicised.