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A welcome U-turn: Ministers backtrack on gas boiler ban

Global Warming Policy Forum

London, 11 August – According to news reports, ministers will downgrade plans to ban the installation of new gas boilers from 2035, making it instead “an ambition to ensure that homeowners do not face significant costs.” 

The Global Warming Policy Forum has consistently and for some time argued, along with other experts in the field, that attempts to force households into premature replacement of cheap, efficient, and effective gas boilers would be economically and politically disastrous. 

In May, the Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF) urged Boris Johnson to pause the poorly designed green home heating policies before they collapsed into a humiliating fiasco. GWPF therefore welcomes this latest sign of realism in government intentions.

However, other parts of the announcement give cause for significant concern. 

Ministers are reported to be considering a £4,000 grant to support homeowners who wish to install a heat pump. But £4,000 is only a very small fraction of the total cost (including installation and the additional insulation required) which could amount to £12,000–£20,000. 

The likelihood is that the beneficiaries of this grant would overwhelmingly be well-off households, and the subsidy yet another wealth transfer from poorer taxpayers and consumers to richer householders.

GWPF director Benny Peiser said:

This grant for the rich would be an iniquitous travesty. Government must learn from the £1 billion wasted on support for wealthy Tesla and electric car buyers and ensure that any grants for a new heating system are means tested. Help must be limited to those who really need it.”

What is more, ministers also need to think more carefully about the wisdom of bribing households into adopting a technology that may be quite inappropriate in many cases. 

Heat pumps will not be suitable for all, or even most British households. Hydrogen-ready natural gas boilers are now in development, allowing homeowners to retain the advantages of natural gas while remaining flexible on the choice of future fuels. Government policy too, needs to remain flexible.

Dr John Constable, the GWPF’s energy spokesman, said:

No economic planning has ever survived contact with reality, and Boris Jonson’s Net Zero scheme is no exception. The Prime Minister’s present embarrassment over gas boilers was completely foreseeable, but No. 10’s policy advisors were blinded by green ideology and failed to warn him of the obvious downsides. Without hard headed realism there will be many more Net Zero humiliations to come.”