Are gas-free homes closer than we think? – Tim Pollard unfiltered

In his exclusive column,  Tim Pollard takes a look at how recent changes in government and industry updates could be the spark for gas-free homes.

As a bit of an old stager in the industry, I have seen the merry-go-round of changes whirling around in government. We all got excited when the Department of Energy and Climate was formed and split out from the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform in 2008.

Then, one of the first things Theresa May did on becoming Prime Minister was to scrap the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), moving most of its work into a new Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

We now hear that a new Department for Energy Security and Net Zero will be tasked with securing the UK’s long-term energy supply, as well as “bringing down bills and halving inflation”. The new ministry, (DESNEZ?), will be headed up by Grant Shapps, (at the time of writing).

Perhaps one of the early areas for the Secretary of State to consider will be the recent report of the government’s net zero Tsar which stated that gas boilers and the sale of homes that are not improved to energy efficiency band C should be banned in a decade’s time to ensure Britain meets its climate change goals.

In the review published in January on whether the country’s 2050 net zero goal is a burden on businesses, Chris Skidmore, a Conservative MP, said that decarbonising homes was key, and called on ministers to legislate to create “gas-free homes” this parliament by banning the sale of new or replacement gas boilers by 2033, two years earlier than current plans.

Skidmore said he did not think the UK should embrace the idea of repurposing gas networks to run hydrogen boilers.

“Hydrogen may be needed in certain localities, but overwhelmingly this should be a transformation to cheaper electricity,” he said, adding that he wanted homes to become “gas-free” so they had no gas bill at all.

About 55% of UK electricity generation is low carbon at present, from wind farms and nuclear plants — a figure the government says must rise to 100% by 2035. Labour is promising to do this by 2030 if it comes to power.

This was rapidly followed by an announcement that Redrow had become the first big housebuilder pledging to construct only gas-free homes, two years ahead of an effective ban in England on gas boilers in new residences.

We know that heat pumps are not suitable for all homes but it does appear that there is a strong weight of support for the technology as the principal option. Householders replacing their heating devices now should be considering the potential for changes in regulation which may impact on the saleability of their properties.

Hopefully, we’ll get a clear statement from our new Net Zero Hero in the very near future.