The Daily Telegraph
Campaigners: boiler scheme is ‘wasteful’
20,000 homes will be paid to install gas devices a decade before they are set to be phased out
A “WASTEFUL” government scheme will see 20,000 households paid to install gas boilers just a decade before they are set to be phased out.
Documents from the Business Department show that the energy company obligation (ECO), which uses money raised from surcharges on energy bills to pay for efficiency measures such as insulation in fuel poor homes, could also see 20,000 homes get new central heating systems with gas boilers.
The scheme covers the period 2022 to 2026, less than 10 years before the 2035 deadline for new gas boilers to be banned. Homes account for around 14 per cent of the UK’S climate pollution, with the vast majority of people getting their heating and hot water from fossil fuel gas boilers which produce carbon dioxide.
Cutting the pollution from households is a key part of the UK’S efforts to meet its legal climate goals to reduce greenhouse gases to zero overall by 2050.
Homeowners are being encouraged to switch instead to electric heat pumps, which are currently installed in a tiny fraction of UK homes but which are expected to become a major source of household heating in the future.
The ECO scheme, funded by energy companies using levies on electricity bills, no longer supports oil boilers but gas-powered ones are still eligible for funding under the scheme, targeted at “fuel poor” households who struggle to afford to keep their homes warm and comfortable. Gas boilers also cause air pollution and could end up being more expensive in the long run as gas prices rise, though heat pumps are currently roughly twice as costly to install.
Energy campaigners have called for levies which drive up the cost of electricity to be added to gas bills instead in order to make electric heating methods like heat pumps more cost-effective.
Currently almost 23 per cent of the cost of electricity bills is made up of “environmental and social levies”, compared to just two per cent of gas bills.
Jess Ralston, analyst with the Energy, Climate and Intelligence Unit, said: “While it’s important that vulnerable households are supported in staying warm at home, installing new fossil fuel boilers – which contribute to harmful air pollution in homes that are already more likely to have poor air quality – just means that fuel poor families are locked into dirtier, more expensive and more unhealthy heating systems for longer.
“It’s wasteful and baffling when it’s clear that a clean heating revolution is just around the corner and gas prices are rocketing.”
Another Government energy efficiency scheme, for social housing, is not supporting fossil fuel boilers, and she called for the Government to make that approach the norm.
Jan Rosenow, Europe director at the Regulatory Assistance Project, said: “Reducing carbon emissions from our homes is absolutely critical to meet the climate targets.
“But paying people to install new heating systems running on fossil fuels is incompatible with the UK’S climate goals.” He said other countries have stopped funding fossil fuel heating systems through public programmes, and urged the UK to lead by example ahead of crucial international Cop26 climate talks in Glasgow.
The Government is expected to set out its plans for switching households over to cleaner energy before the November event, in a document to be published in the coming weeks.
‘It is wasteful and baffling to install new gas boilers when a clean heating revolution is around the corner ’