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A third of Britons considering switch to heat pumps to reduce Russian gas reliance

There are seven million 'heat pump ready homes' in Britain already. Image: WPD.

There are seven million 'heat pump ready homes' in Britain already. Image: WPD.

A third of Britons are now considering installing a heat pump in an effort to get off Russian gas, according to a new survey from the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU).

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has made gas prices increasingly volatile over the past month. This followed already record high prices, which surged throughout 2021, consequently pushing up electricity prices as well.

As a result, energy bills are set to increase from April with the price cap raised by 54% to £1,971.

These surging prices have made it cheaper to run a heat pump than a gas boiler in the UK, saving around £260 a year. Of those surveyed, 37% said lower running costs makes them more likely to make the switch.

From 2 April, grants of £5,000 will be available through the Boiler Upgrade Scheme to support people switching to electric heat pumps.

Additionally, the cut in VAT for energy efficiency products including heat pumps, announced this month in the Spring Statement could cut between £1,200-£2,000 off the average price of installation. The combination of the cut and the grant mean heat pumps can now be as cheap as a boiler to purchase, while also being cheaper to run.

ECIU’s survey found that 49% of all ‘heat pump ready homes’ – those with loft and wall insulation, double glazing and ground floor access – are now interested in getting an electric heat pump. If all these seven million homes switched from a gas boiler to a heat pump, the need to import Russian gas would be eliminated.

“Millions of homes are already suitable for swapping out an old gas boiler for an electric heat pump which are both reliable and clean. As with EVs, early adopters will help to drive down the costs and with demand already set to be high plus a heightened focus on the need to get off imported gas, the Government may be wise to consider expanding the scheme,” said Jess Ralston, senior analyst at ECIU.

“Most people don’t realise it, but your gas boiler produces more carbon emissions than your car, so they are also a major driver of climate change.”

The survey flagged other benefits of heat pumps, such as that they break down less than gas boilers due to having fewer moving parts. Gas boilers also produce nitrous oxide air pollution, which four in ten (41%) survey respondents said makes it more likely they would switch to an electric heat pump.

Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, there has been a renewed push to move away from gas to provide more energy security, with embracing decarbonised heating solutions a key recommendation made by a number of charities and organisations, along with the growth of renewables and energy efficiency measures.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to release an energy security strategy in the coming weeks. While this was previously expected to be published by the end of March, reports of pushback from the Treasury have emerged, and the strategy has since been delayed.

“We recognise there is a lot of interest in our plans to further bolster the UK’s energy security and it is vital that we get this right,” a BEIS spokesperson told Current±.

“Work continues to take place across government and industry to ensure our energy security strategy fully delivers on our aims to supercharge our renewable energy and nuclear capacity as well as supporting our North Sea oil and gas industry. We will set out full details soon.”

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