The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), a nonprofit advisory group, has published research predicting that current government policies for heating new and existing homes will dramatically increase foreign gas dependence.
Additional imports for heating could cost up to £3,000 by 2035 for each household still using a gas boiler, the ECIU says.
With North Sea gas production in decline, current policies which continue to allow gas connections to new homes could see the UK buying an additional 200TWh of foreign gas from states like Qatar between 2024-25. By 2035, the cost of these extra imports could reach £9 billion if current predictions that gas will remain two to three times above pre-energy crisis levels are correct.
Jess Ralston, energy analyst at the ECIU, said: “Those calling to slow down the production of heat pumps are essentially locking the UK into greater foreign gas dependence and the kind of price volatility that we’ve seen over the past year. This worked out really badly for UK bill payers. British renewables like offshore wind in the North Sea have a lower carbon footprint than gas, whether that be from the North Sea oil and gas companies that sell to the highest bidder, or gas from abroad.”
“The government faces a choice; continue subsidising oil and gas, and leave households exposed to volatile gas prices, or direct investment through bold policy into renewables instead,” Ralston added.
While electric heat pump sales are growing in Europe and the US, there have been just 190,050 certified heat pump installations in the UK so far, according to Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) data.
The ECIU analysis also found that imports could be around 40TWh (c.10%) higher than predicted in 2035, if the UK allows new homes to have a gas grid connection along with the less ambitious market mechanism for gas boiler manufacturers. These imports could total £500 million by 2030, and £1.3 billion by 2035.
The ECIU also highlighted the fact that there would be a widening gap between household costs for those who were able to transition to renewable technologies and those who were not.
“For example, a new build home that is built in the next few years with a gas boiler could expect to spend around £3,500 more on gas by 2035 than a new home with an electric heat pump, and an existing home that continues to use a gas boiler could spend around £4,000 on gas by 2035. Foreign gas companies would benefit from the bulk of this (£3,000), as the North Sea continues to decline and imports rise in the 2020s and 2030s,” the ECIU said.
ECIU pointed out that the UK government has not yet confirmed its position on whether the Future Homes Standard, due to come into force in 2025, will allow newbuild properties to be connected to the gas grid or not.
“If new gas grid connections are allowed, then housebuilders may choose to fit ‘hydrogen ready’ boilers, which are gas boilers until, and if, hydrogen is ever pumped into the gas grid at scale,” the nonprofit organisation said.
Octopus Energy recently announced they would invest £70 million in UK ground source heat pump manufacturer The Kensa Group.