Plans for oil boiler ban from 2026 dubbed a 'ULEZ' for rural households

Rishi Sunak Visits Aberdeenshire To Announce Further Measures To Protect The UK's Long-Term Energy Security
Rishi Sunak's plans to block replace oil boilers in off-the-grid households may now be revised in order to be passed through Parliament due to opposition from his own party (Image credit: Getty)

Rishi Sunak's plans to ban oil boilers in off-the-grid homes is set to be revised later this year.

The potential ban was planned to be implemented in 2026 in a move that could force up to 1.5 million households to seek alternative heating alternatives for their households, such as ground or air source heat pumps.

However, the plans have faced significant opposition, even from Sunak's own party as the ban now faces having to be watered-down in order to be approved through the Energy Security Bill.

What is the proposed oil boiler ban?

The oil boiler ban is seeking to ban all new oil boilers in off-the-grid homes by 2026 as part of the government's plans to meet their net zero emissions targets by 2050.

The ban would force households, who cannot use gas boilers, to seek more eco-friendly alternatives.

When is it expected to be introduced?

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New oil boilers could be banned from rural homes in 2026, 10 years before oil boilers in other regions are to be replaced.

The oil boiler ban is set to be included in the Energy Security Bill, which is due to be announced later this year.

Oil boiler ban would force off-grid homes to seek alternatives

Under plans first laid out in 2021, homes off the gas grid were seen as a viable early target because of their relatively high emissions and expensive fuels, such as oil boilers. It is also hoped the ban could boost the lagging uptake of heat pumps in the UK.

The ban would affect 6% of UK households and force them to quickly find alternative heating solutions, and given that most of these households are not connected to the gas grid, they would have to explore gas boiler alternatives.

Should the ban proceed, a considerable number of rural households who rely on oil for their heating and hot water would either have to transition to a different heating method or modify their existing oil boiler to accommodate a more eco-friendly heating fuel.

Among the available alternatives, is heat pumps, which are more energy-efficient for fuelling houses as it runs on electricity and not fossil fuels.

Dubbed 'a ULEZ for rural communities'

The decision has been met with significant opposition with concerns ranging from the costs to rural homeowners, to the inability to meet the demand for more electric heating.

Among the concerns is that the ban come be coming too soon with the National Grid not being able to cope with the increased demands for electric heating due to a lack of electricity grid and capacity-trained installers and engineers also pose significant barriers to the switch to heat pumps within the next few years.

Independent think tank, Localis, recommended a postponement of the ban until 2035 to allow the energy infrastructure more time to adapt. This adjustment would also align the oil boiler ban with the broader ban on fossil-fuel boilers scheduled for 2035.

Even within the Prime Minister's own party opposition to the ban has been voiced with party members expressing concern that the decision could potentially alienate voters in rural areas.

Over 30 members of the Conservative party, including Tory MPs, have already communicated their concerns to the Prime Minister, reflecting worries about the ban's potentially disproportionate impact on rural communities that predominantly lean towards the Conservative party.

George Eustice, former Secretary of State for Environment arrives for a Cabinet meeting

Former Secretary of State for the Environment George Eustice said the oil boiler ban was “a Ulez for rural communities” prosing the ban be altered to allow off-the-grid homeowners to use green alternatives fuels for their oil boilers (Image credit: Getty)

Former environment secretary George Eustice, a significant figure within Boris Johnson's government, has also taken a stance against the ban calling it “a Ulez for rural communities”.

He has instead advocated for owners to adopt eco-friendly fuels to run oil boilers instead of an outright ban. He has drafted an amendment to the Energy Security Bill.

Sir Geoffrey Cox, the former attorney general, described the 2026 deadline as an "extremely invidious choice" for rural, off-the-grid homeowners as they will be forced to pay for heat pumps or other expensive heating solutions.

He stated: “Those of us who live in small rural communities are going to be plunged disadvantageously and prematurely into making a decision like this in two and a half years.”

Oil boiler ban could pivot towards using different fuel

While the ban on oil boilers remains uncertain, there's a possibility that the eventual decision might involve a narrower restrictions allowing these boilers to remain operational if they transition to more environmentally friendly fuels.

In a proposed alteration to the Energy Security Bill subsidies are set to be offered for hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO), which can serve as a replacement fuel for boilers with minor adjustments.

However, the Government remains committed to improving heat pump installations and using this as the primary alternative to oil, gas, and coal boilers.

The Energy Security Bill and oil boiler ban is anticipated to undergo final approval in Parliament in autumn. A spokesman for the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero said: “We have consulted on new regulations to phase out boilers in homes and non-domestic buildings off the gas grid from 2026. 

“We will confirm our plans when we publish our response to the consultation in due course. We are fully focused on delivering on our aim of 600,000 heat pump installations a year by 2028 and have offered heat pump grants of £5,000 and £6,000 towards the cost.

“We have already issued over £75 million in vouchers (the Boiler Upgrade Scheme) – lowering the price of heat pumps and making it an increasingly similar price to installing a gas boiler.”

Joseph Mullane
News Editor

News Editor Joseph has previously written for Today’s Media and Chambers & Partners, focusing on news for conveyancers and industry professionals.  Joseph has just started his own self build project, building his own home on his family’s farm with planning permission for a timber frame, three-bedroom house in a one-acre field. The foundation work has already begun and he hopes to have the home built in the next year. Prior to this he renovated his family's home as well as doing several DIY projects, including installing a shower, building sheds, and livestock fences and shelters for the farm’s animals. Outside of homebuilding, Joseph loves rugby and has written for Rugby World, the world’s largest rugby magazine.