The UK government has published the long-awaited Heat and Buildings Strategy, outlining how the country will decarbonise the built environment.
The strategy was put together in the recognition that heating buildings was responsible for 23% of the UK’s carbon emissions in 2019.
If the UK is to meet its commitment to cut emissions by 78% by 2035, it will have to “eliminate virtually all emissions arising from heating, cooling and energy use in our buildings”, Kwasi Kwarteng, secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy, said in the report’s foreword.
PlaceTech has picked out some of the major announcements in the report:
- £3.9bn of funding: this includes £1.4bn for the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme; £950m for the Home Upgrade Grant; £800m for the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund; £450m for the Boiler Upgrade Scheme; and £338m for the Heat Network Transformation Programme
- Gas boilers out – but gradually: the UK will phase out new gas boilers from 2035 (once low-carbon alternative costs have fallen), and the government says it intends to work with industry to reduce costs and improve heat pump technology
- No gas boiler ban: there will be no ban on existing boilers, but households will be given grants of £5,000 or £6,000 if they switch to air source heat pumps or ground source heat pumps.
- New building regulations: the government will introduce legislation, including new building regulations, to ensure homes are fitted with low-carbon heating to remove the need for retrofits.
- Trialling hydrogen: by 2025, the government will conduct a village-scale trial of hydrogen for heating. By then, it will also develop plans for a possible hydrogen town that can be converted by the end of the decade. A consultation into boilers that can be converted to hydrogen by 2026 will be launched soon.
- Fabric-first approach: better energy performance in buildings is a priority, and the government will invest £1.75bn in improvements for social housing, low income and fuel poor households (as part of its £3.9bn investment total)
- New energy ratings: A “new and innovative” performance-based energy rating will be introduced for large commercial and industrial buildings over 1,000 sq m
“Not ambitious enough”
Although it welcomed the government’s recognition that buildings have to move away from fossil fuels and that households need help to in the transition, the UK Green Building Council criticised the strategy for not going far enough.
Julie Hirigoyen, CEO of UKGBC, said: “Phasing out gas boilers from 2035 is not ambitious enough. There needs to be a clear cut-off date from 2030 to put us on track to meet net zero. And £5,000 grants will help just 30,000 households – a drop in the ocean in the context of the 900,000 annual installations we need to see by 2028.
“Worse still, there’s no targeted financial help at all for low income households to embark on the journey to clean electric heating, meaning that the gap between rich and poor will widen, not close.”
Stew Horne, head of policy at Energy Saving Trust, called the strategy “a good start”, adding: “This ambition should help provide the confidence, clarity, and certainty, which will help unlock the investment in the supply chain required to make this happen. But we still need more clarity about the detail of how this ambition is going to be delivered and we look forward to working with government on developing these policies and delivery strategies over the coming months.”