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Heat and Buildings Strategy 2021: What Can Homeowners Expect?

the Heat and Buildings Strategy is likely to include measures to ramp up air source heat pump installation
(Image credit: Getty)

The Heat and Buildings Strategy is a significant upcoming publication which could have wide-reaching implications for homeowners across the UK.

The strategy will set out a number of decarbonisation plans to help the UK meet its net zero target. Roughly 14% of the UK’s carbon emissions comes from heating our homes, according to the Committee on Climate Change, and the strategy is expected to give clear signals to homeowners about the need to improve their energy efficiency. 

However, the scope of the strategy is understood to be a reason why the strategy's expected publication date of July will now be later in the autumn. Sky News reports that disagreements inside government about the cost of plans meant talks have stalled, and the strategy will be published after the government's summer recess. 

Ahead of the Heat and Buildings Strategy's eventual release, this is what we know so far about the potential measures that could be announced.

What is the Heat and Buildings Strategy?

The Heat and Buildings Strategy will be the first of its kind in England, laying out a full-scale roadmap to tackle emissions in homes and businesses. 

It is expected to build on pledges made in the government’s 10 Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, and the Energy White Paper (more on this below), and set ambitious targets to drive the push towards net zero. 

What Might it Include?

These are the pledges which are widely expected to be included:

  • A ban date for natural gas boilers: banning the sale of fossil fuels is an inexorable step towards net zero, and the government is likely to announce a cut-off date when natural gas boilers will no longer be installed in existing homes 
  • Electricity bills will be slashed: as per reports, this will be announced to help wean the country off reliance on gas for household heating, and move towards low-carbon heating systems powered by electricity
  • More information on the Clean Heat Grant: the full design of the scheme replacing the Renewable Heat Incentive next year has not yet been unveiled, nor which heating systems will be eligible 
  • Measures to ramp up heat pump installations: the government will look to build on its pledge to fit 600,000 heat pumps per year by 2028, detailing a plan of how this will be achieved, and how to incentivise heat pumps for homeowners.

Heat and Buildings Strategy

The government is likely to explain how it will scale up heat pump development to fit fit 600,000 heat pumps per year by 2028. (Image credit: Daikin)

Additionally, these are some possible announcements which could appear, but are less likely to do so:

  • A replacement for the Green Homes Grant: the government’s flagship green strategy was scrapped in March, despite high demand. A new policy is expected to be unveiled in the summer spending review, but a new scheme could yet be introduced in the Heat and Buildings Strategy. Bloomberg reported in March that government discussions were underway about a new long-term domestic insulation programme.
  • Hydrogen heating will be scaled out - a hydrogen neighbourhood in 2023 is the first step towards the government’s plan to green up the gas grid with hydrogen, but experts are concerned by how much the process of heating homes through hydrogen will cost. We could yet see a plan of action addressing this apprehension.

How Will it Affect Homeowners?

Once the strategy is published we’ll have a better idea of what it means for homeowners. But the strategy is very likely to impose legal commitments that homeowners will have to adhere to. 

This could be in the form of introducing low-carbon heating systems such as heat pumps or biomass boilers, or retrofitting homes to make them more energy-efficient.

Why Has it Been Delayed?

Ministers are reportedly locked in negotiations about how to incentivise homeowners to change to low-carbon heating systems - such as heat pumps and hydrogen boilers - and how much the Treasury would have to pay to subsidise them.

The Committee on Climate Change in June urged the government to give free heat pumps to poorer households, and Whitehall is reportedly concerned about how to encourage homeowners to remove their existing boilers. 

The cost of installing heat pumps can range between £8,000-£14,000, and while they can lead to long-term energy savings, a recent report by the Energy and Utilities Alliance revealed 80% of people said that this was either too excessive and they couldn’t afford to pay (54%), or that they would pay it only with financial support (26%). 

Speaking to a panel of lawmakers in Parliament this month, prime minister Boris Johnson said heat pumps are still too expensive for homeowners. 

While the government has not officially confirmed the strategy will be delayed to the autumn, Downing Street is under pressure to publish the strategy ahead of UN climate change conference (COP26) at the end of October. The government is also expected to publish a Hydrogen Strategy and Net Zero Strategy in the early autumn. 

Jack Woodfield

Jack is News Editor of Homebuilding & Renovating and strives to break the most relevant and beneficial stories for self builders and renovators. Having bought his first home in 2013, he and his wife have renovated almost every room and recently finished a garden renovation. Jack reports on all of the latest news that could affect your project.