“A week is a long time in politics”

25th Sep 2023


I know it’s a well-used adage, but after the past few days, you’ll forgive me for using it.

Now that the dust has settled and the excitable media pundits have calmed down, it is worth exploring what the Prime Minister actually said; what bits are real change and what was purely political rhetoric. Then of course comes the detail from the Whitehall officials, who were none too happy with the events.

There was the welcome change in the date when new oil boiler installations were scheduled to banned, from 2026 to 2035. Exactly what EUA had been calling for. The Boiler Upgrade Scheme subsidy has been increased to £7500. As you know, I disagree with the principle of the scheme but I accept that increasing the payment does move the policy in a fairer (not yet fair) direction. Finally, there was the new acknowledgement that for both off grid and on gas grid homes, 20 per cent will not be suitable for a heat pump, even after the 2035 deadline for a ban on gas boiler replacements.

This last point needs exploring further. No detail was forthcoming on precisely how these homes should be heated, so the assumption is with a gas delivered via the existing network. So for these 4 million homes, is the plan to stick with natural gas or switch to hydrogen?

Given the intention is still to decarbonise the 2 million off grid homes, it is inconceivable that the 4 million “exempt from a heat pump” homes will stay on natural gas. Read into that what you want.

What officials could not address in their calls last week was how the GDNs would be funded to deliver the gas? How can 20 per cent of the meter points afford to pay for 100 per cent of the costs? Given these exempt homes span the length and breadth of the UK, the only sensible solution to both problems is to allow more homes to connect to a decarbonised gas network.

The only reply when I outlined this scenario was “we need to wait for the 2026 strategic decision on hydrogen”. On this, despite the noise, fury and media glare, nothing changed.

Mike Foster

EUA's Chief Executive


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