A UK government committee on climate change has proposed banning the installation of mains gas in new homes by 2025.
The group has been tasked with looking at strategies that would enable the UK to meet its targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050 (based on 1990 levels). This initial proposal suggests equipping all new-build ‘countryside’ homes with central heating systems that use either electricity-powered air source or ground source heat pumps, as well as installing induction hobs rather than gas.
But have the government got this right: should the focus instead be on exploring other methods of reducing carbon emissions within our housing sector? Some believe that this is a knee-jerk reaction as carbon emissions from housing suddenly increased last year, when they should be going down. But, as most countryside houses are ‘off-grid’ in any case and not connected to a mains gas supply, so how many homes will this actually affect?
From an infrastructure perspective, given the growing number of electrical items – including cars – using the mains grid, some electricity companies are already concerned about surges in the network. Additionally, more space is needed to accommodate heat pumps, hot water tanks and the equipment required for that type of system: far more than can be tucked away inside a high-level kitchen unit.
While thought must be given to how the UK can meet its targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, we believe that there should be more focus on improving minimum insulation standards for new-build houses and more funds made available for the replacement of old boilers, as well as the provision of better insulation, thermally efficient windows and intelligent heating controls in older homes.
In fact, the potential gains from tackling existing housing stock is likely to far outweigh those delivered by modifying the spec for new-build homes ‘in the countryside’. Although many of these measures are seen as difficult and expensive to implement, they present a golden opportunity to significantly reduce carbon emissions over the long term.
Surely, in the first instance, inputting less energy should take precedence over the heating method?