Data highlights urgent need for government action to introduce low-carbon heat pumps, researchers say.
The millions of gas boilers in the UK’s homes produce twice as much climate-heating carbon emissions as all the nation’s gas-fired power stations combined, according to an analysis.
The finding highlighted the urgent need for a strong government policy to rapidly introduce low-carbon heating such as heat pumps, the researchers said.
The data also shows that home gas boilers collectively produce eight times as much nitrogen dioxide as the power plants. NO2 is an air pollutant linked to tens of thousands of early deaths a year in the UK.
Ministers have promised to publish their heat and buildings strategy before the UN Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow in November. The government is also contending with soaring gas prices, which have been driven up by rapid growth in post-pandemic demand around the world.
Heat pumps run on electricity and are efficient but they cost much more to install than gas boilers. The CBI has said the installation of new gas boilers must be banned from 2025 or the UK’s net zero climate target will be “doomed”.
A second analysis has found that high gas prices mean the energy bills of people living in poorly insulated homes will rise by up to £246 a year. The UK has the oldest housing stock in western Europe but the rates of home insulation installation plunged by 95% between 2012 and 2019. A recent government energy efficiency scheme collapsed after six months, with the National Audit Office blaming ministers for the “botched” policy.
Neil Jones, at the climate charity Possible, which produced the analysis of gas boilers with the social enterprise Scene, said: “Amid a frightening gas price crisis, and a decade of opportunity wasted by the government to insulate our homes, supporting households to begin switching to clean heat pumps has come suddenly into focus.
“It’s high time the government finally gave us all the tools we need to modernise our homes, and ensure a safer, cleaner future.”
The UK is lagging behind most European countries in terms of heat pump installations.
The Possible analysis used government data to estimate the CO2 emissions and air pollution produced by the UK’s home gas boilers and power plants. It found the boilers used in a city the size of Leeds pump out the same amount of CO2 as one gas power station. Home energy use contributes about 15% of all the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions.
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