Heat and buildings strategy to “decarbonise domestic and business sectors”

21 October 2021

The government’s long-awaited heat and buildings strategy has finally been published, setting out how the UK will decarbonise homes, and commercial, industrial and public sector buildings.

The strategy sets out the government’s £3.9 billion funding programme to achieve net zero by 2050 and includes plans to significantly cut carbon emissions from workplaces and homes using low cost, high tech affordable options, supported with government funding.

There are about 30 million commercial, public and domestic buildings in the UK, which currently contribute around 20% of all UK carbon emissions.

Central to the strategy is to phase out the sale of natural gas boilers beyond 2035 and convert the existing gas grid infrastructure to run on hydrogen. The plan also includes a new £450 million Boiler Upgrade Scheme to support households who want to make the switch to low-carbon heat pumps with £5000 grants.

Publication of the strategy follows weeks of rising gas prices which is forcing higher energy costs on businesses with household energy bills also expected to rise by around £400 and domestic users.

Announcing the strategy, Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “Recent volatile global gas prices have highlighted the need to double down on our efforts to reduce Britain’s reliance on fossil fuels and move away from gas boilers over the coming decade to protect consumers in long term.”

The £3.9 billion package includes the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund, the Home Upgrade Grant Scheme, the Boiler Upgrade Scheme, the Heat Networks Transformation Programme and the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme.

But there is growing concern that the measures announced will not be enough to meet future climate targets. Industry groups including the Construction Leadership Council and the Federation of Master Builders have told the “Building” group that the government needs to focus more on its “fabric-first” programme of insulating buildings and other measures before installing green heating systems.

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said that whilst the phase out of gas boilers is welcome, the strategy is nowhere near ambitious enough. “Government’s failure to introduce significant grants and zero-interest loans for home insulation at the same time as introducing measures to promote low carbon heat is…yet another example of a Government target with no properly thought-through or funded plan to meet it.”

The government is currently seeking views on options for phasing out fuel heating systems in businesses. Further details are available here.