The government’s climate change adviser has been accused of “over-stepping” its remit by recommending that no new homes should be connected to the gas grid from 2025 onwards.
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) published a report on housing on Thursday (21 February), which recommended that new dwellings should not have gas connections from the middle of this decade in order to accelerate faltering efforts to cut emissions from the UK’s housing stock.
But the recommendation has met a hostile response from the gas industry and unions.
Paul Blacklock, head of strategy and corporate affairs at Calor, said: “The CCC is being misguided and over-stepping its carbon emission monitoring and target setting role by straying into policy areas beyond its remit.
“In doing this they have completely ignored the potential role for other technologies which could deliver the same or even better carbon result at a lower cost and providing society with a choice.
“Heat pumps have had a chequered history over recent years which is why house builders and home owners still favour high efficiency condensing gas boilers, which can be run on low carbon biogases like biomethane or bioLPG.
“Government will need to help consumers on the decarbonisation journey and the announcement is not conducive to this aim.
“It is imperative that the UK achieves urgent and drastic cuts in carbon emissions. However, there is no single solution and thankfully this is recognised by the government if not by the CCC.”
David Smith, chief executive of Energy Networks Association, said that gas companies are developing means of delivering low carbon fuels like hydrogen, through the grid.
“Given the public benefits in decarbonising gas we therefore believe strongly that there is an enduring role for connecting energy efficient new homes to the gas grid beyond 2025 and that new homes should not be excluded from these opportunities.”
Ian McCluskey, head of technical services and policy at the Institution of Gas Engineers and Managers (IGEM), said he did not accept the CCC’s recommendation.
He said: “We would urge the government not to rule out any options lest it impact on the long-term feasibility of a no regrets solution to the decarbonisation of heat.”
Pointing to research showing that 90 per cent of consumers cannot afford or are unwilling to pay for alternative low-carbon heating systems, he said: “The existence of the gas grid does not preclude other solutions for decarbonisation.
“Hydrogen can play a valuable role as part of the heating solution for UK buildings in combination with hybrid heat system solutions and more energy efficient homes. These latest recommendations make that future less likely and more difficult to achieve.”
The IGEM said that the controversial recommendation contradicted the CCC’s earlier report on hydrogen, published just three months ago, which says the gas grid has a key role to play in the decarbonisation of heat.
Stuart Fegan, national officer at the GMB union, said: “Gas can and must play a greater part in that drive going forward and initiatives to inject greater use of low carbon gases, such as hydrogen, into our gas distribution system must to brought forward and receive the necessary investment from government.“
Chris Stark, chief executive of the CCC, acknowledged that the uptake in the installation of heat pumps had not happened as quickly as hoped.
But he told Utility Week that the development of hybrid heat pumps, which can be fitted to heating systems, heralded a bigger scope for the technology.
These pumps could provide heating and hot water for the bulk of the year with the gas boilers only kicking in when the weather is coldest.
“The gas grid can be a back up. Combine that with improved energy efficiency and you can get cracking a lot more easily.
“This hybrid solution gets you quicker to decarbonisation (targets) and allows you to delay the really important decision about the decarbonisation of the heating system.”