Has the Energy Secretary killed off Net Zero?
17th Jul 2023
Last week the Energy Secretary, Grant Shapps, attended the Press Lobby lunch.
Now these are usually occasions where the attending Minister can be open and honest; speak freely and sometimes be humorous. Often they are used to introduce a Minister to the Press Lobby, sometimes to remind them that they are still around.
Anyway, during the lunch, questions are asked and the Energy Secretary answered them – without briefing notes or officials to intervene or support. Just the Minister on their own. You’ve guessed it, sometimes things go wrong; words are uttered that shouldn’t have been; intermittently honesty creeps in; and if the truth told, occasionally there is a gaffe.
So what do we make of Grant Shapps’ appearance when he was quoted as saying: “I don’t believe in telling people ‘Right, we’re just coming in to rip out your boiler to replace it with this other thing that you don’t want’. It’s not helpful. – Daily Telegraph (14.7.2023)
Now the context, he was referring to hydrogen boilers heating homes, but as anyone with knowledge of the topic knows, the government’s own policy is to mandate hydrogen-ready boilers so that they do not have to be ripped off walls and consumers given something they don’t want.
So what do we make of his statement?
Can we infer that he doesn’t really have a full grip on the policy of his own department? That seems harsh, but in truth, quite likely. Has he mixed up the policy of replacing gas boilers with heat pumps, which consumers are yet to be convinced about? Well that certainly seems to be the suggestion, if a consumer doesn’t want a type of appliance to replace their boiler, then they shouldn’t be forced to have it. That’s refreshingly honest, albeit that it contradicts government policy.
In addition, in placing the consumer at the heart of the decision, rightly so, in the question of hydrogen village trials, has the Energy Secretary inadvertently given consumers a veto over future heating policy? If they want to stay with a boiler, they should be free to do so, that is what he has said. The two questions now for him to answer are, is that with hydrogen gas or natural gas? And what happens to net zero if it is the latter?