Ross Clark: A ban on gas boilers would be yet another pointless eco catastrophe
Has the Government’s Climate Change Committee (CCC) been seized by one of those gangs which promises to tarmac your driveway for £50 and then, when it has finished its shoddy work, tells you, no, you misheard: £50 was the price per square foot?
In its Sixth Carbon Budget, published yesterday, the CCC claims the cost of turning Britain carbon neutral by 2050 has plummeted. It is now going to cost “just” £50 billion a year by 2030. And eventually that is all going to be cancelled out by lower fuel bills, anyway, so it will be free.
If something sounds too good to be true, you can be pretty sure it is. Remember David Cameron’s Green Deal, introduced in 2013 to offer loans for energy improvements, the net cost of which would be zero because they would save more money than they cost? It was abandoned two years later when it became clear that improvements weren’t going to save nearly enough money to repay the loans. A National Audit Office report concluded that the scheme had cost the taxpayer £17,000 per loan, with negligible reduction in carbon emissions.
Now, central to the Climate Change Committee’s ambitions are our homes, in particular a proposed ban on the sale of all new gas boilers by 2033 and oil boilers – relied upon by people in rural areas – by 2028.
It is right to build new homes to high energy efficiency standards, but it is sadly all too easy to predict the result of a rushed scheme to retrofit all existing homes to make them zero carbon. Homeowners will be fleeced, left with damp, chilly homes. Worse, the costs are bound to fall disproportionately on the lowest- income homeowners.
Some homes, says the CCC, may be heated with hydrogen – even though the technology to produce clean hydrogen has yet to be proven on a commercial scale. In most cases, though, the CCC wants gas boilers to be replaced with electric heat pumps. But these cost a lot more: between £6,000 and £8,000 for a typical air-source heat pump, according to Which.
But if you live in one of Britain’s nine million older homes with solid walls, that is just the beginning. Heat pumps operate on lower water temperatures than gas boilers. To heat a home effectively you may need to install much larger radiators and insulate the walls, too. Solid wall insulation, again according to Which estimates, comes in at £7,400 if stuck on the inside (which makes all the rooms smaller) and £13,000 if stuck on the outside. Damp is another potential hazard: cover an old house, built without a damp course, with cladding and insulation and you are asking for trouble.
The CCC puts a timetable of 10-15 years on bringing all homes up to a grade “C” level on an Energy Performance Certificate. Where, other than the bands of cowboy contractors who will already be smacking their lips, does it think we are going to find the required workforce?
And if you can’t pay to upgrade your home? The CCC wants the sale of all new homes which don’t come up to standard to be banned from 2028, and mortgages on them to be stopped from 2033. In other words, if you can’t spend thousands to upgrade your home, you won’t be able to sell it or continue paying a mortgage. Yes, a government quango is proposing a policy which would lead to mass repossessions.