If Whitehall wants to ban fossil fuel heating in new homes, heat pumps may be the obvious option, but ministers must not become obsessed with heat pumps to the exclusion of other available solutions like hydrogen-powered boilers and renewable electric heating.
That was the message from the Builders Merchants Federation (BMF) in a consultation that closed last week, seeking views on the Future Homes Standard aimed at decarbonising new homes.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government invited views on reducing emissions from new homes built after 2025 by changing Part L (Fuel & Power) and Part F (Ventilation) of the Building Regulations. The headline proposal is aimed at ending gas boiler connections in 6 years time in favour of heat pumps, heat networks and direct electric heating.
In its response to the MHCLG, the BMF said that heat pumps and heat networks are the logical choice – so long as they remain affordable – and careful consideration is given to the risk of overheating. But ministers must not become obsessed with heat pumps because other low- or zero-carbon solutions are available. Hydrogen to replace burning natural gas and direct electric heating from renewable sources will suit different circumstances in new housebuilding.
Brett Amphlett, BMF policy & public affairs manager, commented:
“BMF members tell us the target is technically feasible and tightening the Building Regulations over time is realistically the only way to get there. But more stringent regulation means taxpayer-funded incentives are necessary to help transform markets and bring about behavioural change”.
“Public and private sector finance will both be required to invest in the shift to a net zero carbon economy. There is a genuine need to support businesses to make the transition. We urge the new Chancellor of the Exchequer to introduce Enhanced Capital Allowances to help manufacturers to scale-up the production of heat pumps and hydrogen-powered boilers”.
The BMF canvassed views amongst members. Both heavyside and lightside businesses reiterated solid support for the ‘Fabric First’ argument. They said it is critical to get the basic structure and fabric right first, because the real issue to confront is the performance gap. Irrespective of how stringent standards are, if they are not being met, emissions will continue, say BMF members.
Mr Amphlett sounded a cautionary note, because Whitehall is not ahead of the curve in educating the public. The risk is scaremongers make unsubstantiated claims about costs. Tabloid newspapers have already carried stories on ripping out gas central heating from every home by 2050.