Little sign of understanding of the subject in Government announcements on home heating

The Government announcement (in today’s The Times) regarding the banning of gas boilers in new homes demonstrates a profound lack of understanding of energy supply.

1. It is extremely unlikely that there will be a significant number of hydrogen powered boilers within the timescales shown . To change the gas supply network from natural gas to hydrogen is theoretically possible but it would be prohibitively expensive and logistically complex. You could create a small number of new estates with localised hydrogen fired heating from their own storage tanks but I would judge this to be unviable.

2. Many of the new gas boilers installed every year at present are retrofit replacements in existing properties. To replace these with heat pumps is unlikely to be practicable in all but a tiny minority of cases.

3. Properties only have oil fired boilers if they are in non gas areas. If a home in such an area needs a new boiler there is no practical alternative but to install a new oil fired one.

4. Brand new properties could be required to have heat pumps and electric rather than gas cookers. But the practicalities of doing this seem not to have been thought through in technical or economic terms. We have little or no collective memory on this subject and even experimental heat pump heated new homes just don’t exist let alone exist any on a commercial scale.

5. Whilst domestic use of gas for heating and cooking in private residences is a major sector there are others. Offices, schools, shops, factories and all public buildings have gas fired heating systems. The scale of this is considerable. Hospitals, for example, have large gas (in some cases oil) fired boilers for which there is no obvious alternative.

Energy policy is complex and understanding it is not helped by headline grabbing announcements which have no practical logic to them.

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