The government has launched a Call for Evidence on its plans to phase out high-carbon fossil fuel heating systems, such as coal fires and oil burners, over the next decade.
In a document released yesterday the government offered more detail on its plans to halt the installation of oil and coal heating systems from the 2020s onwards, starting with new build properties.
Building on a policy first set out in the Clean Growth Strategy last year, the move represents is a key step towards decarbonising the UK’s building stock, which is responsible for around a third of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Currently around 1.1 million homes in Great Britain are heated using oil, many of which tend to be large and inefficient rural houses. Oil is the most carbon intensive heating option for properties not connected to the central gas grid, and thus is a key starting point for decarbonisation efforts.
In addition, around 170,000 homes rely primarily on coal or other solid fuels for warmth.
“This is an ambitious change to the way millions of people heat their homes and businesses and presents a significant market opportunity,” energy and climate change minister Claire Perry said in the consultation foreword.
She stressed the economic benefits of moving to lower carbon fuel sources, including biomass, hydrogen gas, heat pumps, and heat networks. “Phasing out high carbon fossil fuel heating may be a challenge, but it is also an opportunity for new jobs, new skills, and investment in innovation, as well as greater comfort and convenience for the end user,” Perry explained.
The findings will be used to develop a framework to follow on the from the existing subsidy scheme the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), which is scheduled to close to new applicants in 2021. The government said it will also seek to address market barriers to make the installation of cleaner alternatives to oil and coal cheaper and easier, to reduce the reliance on subsidies for renewable heat going forward.
The government is also due to publish a report later this summer confirming its long-term approach to decarbonising heating networks, which will lay the groundwork for pursuing either large scale hydrogen or biomass gas grid, or mass use of heat networks or heat pumps.
“It must be understood that we will not be heating our buildings in 2050 by setting fire to the same substances people burned in the Victorian era,” Perry warned the industry. “Progress is a crucial part of our Industrial Strategy: it keeps UK businesses at the cutting edge. Our heating industry must retain its position as a world leader, seeing this process as an opportunity to lead the change that is necessary, and not let the world change without them.”
Industry insiders have been urging the government to accelerate efforts to develop a replacement for the RHI, warning that without a clear signal as to how Ministers intend to support the development of the market beyond 2021 the imminent end of the existing subsidy scheme could start to have a chilling effect on investment.