Climate campaigners have warned that the UK government may allow new houses to continue to be fitted with gas boilers – despite rules designed to phase them out.
A coalition of over 40 architects, housing organisations, energy companies, financial institutions, installers, aviation companies, manufacturers and civil society organisations claim ministers are mulling a loophole for the forthcoming Future Homes Standard, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from new homes.
They have written to the housing minister to seek confirmation that there will be no new gas grid connections permitted. The legislation could have a huge impact on anyone undertaking a self-build or renovation project.
What is the Future Homes Standard?
The Future Homes Standard is a set of rules that will come into effect from 2025 to ensure new homes produce less carbon emissions.
It is expected that no new homes will be able to connect the gas network from 2025 as part of the Future Homes Standard. Instead, they will be equipped with energy-efficient insulation and heated by a low-carbon heating source such as an air source heat pump or hydrogen boilers.
Dr Matthew Scott of the Chartered Institute of Housing and a signatory of the letter, said: “The Future Homes Standard is critical to ensuring that the homes of the future are affordable and aligned to our statutory Net Zero commitments.
“By reaffirming its prioritisation of heat pumps and other low-carbon heating solutions such as heat networks alongside fabric efficiency, the government can give a clear signal to the housing sector that the homes they will be building – and letting – in the coming decades will be truly fit for the future.”
What loophole do campaigners fear will be exploited?
The campaigners claim a loophole would allow new homes to be fitted with “hydrogen-ready” boilers, which are functionally similar to standard gas boilers. There are also concerns hydrogen gas for hydrogen heating may never be adopted across the UK as an alternative to fossil fuels.
Juliet Phillips, Senior Policy Advisor at E3Ga signatory of the letter, said: “Connecting newly-built homes to the gas grid, during a gas crisis, is a disaster for energy bills, energy security, and the climate emergency.
“Experts have repeatedly concluded that hydrogen will not provide a nationwide solution for heat decarbonisation. Hydrogen-ready boilers could act as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, allowing new homes to be connected to the gas grid, with little chance they will be supplied with green hydrogen any time soon.
“We encourage the government to instead firmly double down on readily available clean tech solutions such as heat pumps.”
How could the loophole be closed?
Ministers are to consult on the Future Homes Standard this month. A gas boiler ban in new build homes from 2025 was expected, but the government's language changed when it published its Heat and Buildings Strategy in October.
The government said in the strategy that it plans to consult on whether it is "appropriate" to prevent new build homes from being connected to the gas grid in England from 2025.
The prospective gas boiler ban is yet to be officially confirmed within the Future Homes Standard guidance.
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Sam is based in Coventry and has been a news reporter for nearly 20 years. His work has featured in the Mirror, The Sun, MailOnline, the Independent, and news outlets throughout the world. As a copywriter, he has written for clients as diverse as Saint-Gobain, Michelin, Halfords Autocentre, Great British Heating, and Irwin Industrial Tools. During the pandemic, he converted a van into a mini-camper and is currently planning to convert his shed into an office and Star Wars shrine.