The funding will be available to 90,000 households
In its announcement, the government pledged that the heating systems will be no more expensive to run than gas boilers and that the £5,000 subsidies will make the installation of the pump no more costly than a new gas boiler.
Writing in The Sun on Monday, 18 October, Prime Minister Boris Johnson stressed that people will not be forced to remove existing gas boilers.
“The Greenshirts of the Boiler Police are not going to kick in your door with their sandal-clad feet and seize, at carrot-point, your trusty old combi,” he said.
“Instead, we’re going to make carbon-free alternatives cheaper to install so that when you or your landlord next come to replace your boiler — something that usually happens every 15 years or so — it makes more sense to go with a cleaner, more efficient replacement that you know will help the planet.”
But with approximately 27.8 million households in the UK, as per the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics, and only enough funding for 90,000 homes, who will be eligible for the grants?
Who will receive a £5,000 grant?
All homeowners, small landlords and private landlords in England and Wales will be eligible for the Boiler Upgrade scheme. However, it will not be made available to social housing and new build properties.
Companies installing the heat pumps will apply for the grant on behalf of their customers, and the grant amount will be discounted from the total price homeowners pay.
How to tell if your boiler can be replaced?
The government scheme will replace systems that use fossil fuels, such as gas boilers, as these are damaging to the environment because they release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
But the government has stressed that households will not be forced to remove them. Instead, it aims for the sale of new gas boilers to end in the coming 14 years.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said the boiler scheme will support the government’s target for all new heating systems installed in UK homes by 2035 to use low-carbon technologies such as heat pumps.
Although the upgrade scheme will not come into effect until April 2022, if your gas boiler needs replacing it is worth getting in touch with your energy provider to see if you’re eligible for the grant.
What has the response been?
According to EDF Energy, an air source heat pump – which takes warmth from the air outside your home – costs between £4,000 and £8,000. Installation costs can take this total up to between £5,000 and £10,000.
Ministers and energy company bosses say the £5,000 subsidies will make heat pumps a comparable price to a new gas boiler.
Greg Jackson, CEO and founder of Octopus Energy said it has committed to installing heat pumps for “about the same cost as gas boilers” once the boiler scheme launches in April.
“Electric heat pumps are more efficient, safer and cleaner than gas boilers and can help make homes more comfortable with less energy. Today we’ve crossed a massive milestone in our fight against climate change and to reduce Britain’s reliance on expensive, dirty gas,” he said.
But some experts have warned that the government’s £450 million budget is too low.
Environmental charity Friends of the Earth (FoE) described the strategy as a “start”, but “just not a very good one”.
“Of course this is presented to look fantastic, and with industry backing, but a quick glance reveals it to be quite modest. £450 million pounds delivered via individual £5000 grants means 90,000 heat pump installations over three years. That just isn’t very much,” Mike Childs, head of science at FoE told The Independent.
“Investment will drive down the cost of heat pumps, and technical innovation plus skills training is a part of this, but so is scale. These grants will only incentivise the best-off households.”
Caroline Lucas, a Green Party MP for Brighton Pavillion told the BBC that the government’s strategy does not provide enough funding for poorer households.
“We know that the money isn’t there. Clearly, there was a fight between No 10 and the Treasury and the Treasury has won because the funding is not there to make sure poorer households will be able to afford to put in place the insulation and low carbon heat pumps that are needed here,” she said.